Razor-backed Musk Turtle

Sternotherus carinatus


Like many musk turtles, Sternotherus carinatus is a small, stream-dwelling species. In Mississippi they are found in Pearl and Pascagoula River drainages in the south portion of the state. They can be identified with the spotting on the head and neck, as well as an intensely keeled shell. Musk turtles may be seen basking on small logs and branches, or may be seen scouring edges of streams while foraging. This species is popular in the pet trade, and poaching is especially prevalent in Louisiana where their capture is not regulated. Razor-backs exhibit megacephalic head morphology which aids in crushing of hard-bodied prey.

Adult male, Stone Co. (MS)

Identifying Traits

  • Spotted neck and strong keel of shell


Streams and drainages related to the Pearl and Pascagoula rivers.


Highly aquatic species that forages on aquatic invertebrates


Aquatic invertebrates and small vertebrates

Juveniles are quite small and the keel appears very pronounced in hatchlings, © McAulay Jaunsen
S. carinatus, Mobile Co. (AL), © Grover Brown
Closeup of a male, Simpson Co. (MS)
Full grown male, Simpson Co. (MS)