Common Musk Turtle

Sternotherus odoratus


Sternotherus odoratus is a common, small-bodied Kinosternid found in a variety of bodies of water throughout the eastern US and the state. They are often found in flowing water, but may be encountered in lakes, ponds, and ditches, much like eastern mud turtles. Common Musk Turtles are identified by the two bright yellow lines on the head and a pair of barbles on the chin. They have partly hinged plastrons with anteriormost sutures that do not form a “K” shape (as seen in the Eastern Mud Turtle). Musk turtles may be seen basking on small logs and branches, or may be seen scouring edges of streams while foraging. They are aptly named for the ability to secret a musky odor from glands on the shell.

Adult male Common Musk Turtle moving to a small wetland, Jackson Co. (MS)

Identifying Traits

  • Dark head with bright pair of stripes
  • Barbles on chin


Streams, rivers, ditches, canals, ponds, lakes


Highly aquatic species that forages on aquatic invertebrates


Aquatic invertebrates and small vertebrates

In-hand picture of a juvenile musk turtle found in a small lake, Forrest Co. (MS)