Spiny Softshell

Apalone spinifera


Spiny Softshells are a soft-shelled turtle species found in a variety of water bodies throughout the state. These turtles are brown or tan, females being larger, while males are smaller. Spiny Softshells are often dotted or marked with various blotches. This species can be differentiated from the less-common Smooth Softshell by the front margin of the carapace. The front edge of the shell near the head will be bumpy or “spiny”. Smooth Softshell nares are also round, whereas other species are not. 

A female Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell being processed for research, George Co. (MS)

Identifying Traits

  • Spined or “sandpapery” front margin of carapace
  • Nares with ridge

Subspecies Present:

Gulf Coast Spiny Softshell (Apalone spinifera aspera)

Eastern Spiny Softshell (Apalone spinifera spinifera)


Found in a large variety of bodies of water



Juveniles may burrow into sand near water’s edge


Carnivorous, various invertebrates, fish, other reptiles or amphibians

A. mutica (bottom) compared to A. spinifera (top), Jones Co. (MS), © Grover Brown