Dr. Jon Moore’s talk on the herpetofuana of the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area to Saturday’s FMEL-ORCA conservation stewardship class included a reference to the long neck of the Florida Softshell Turtle (Apalone ferox) that it extends while underwater. Something seen below in the last image. Another trait of these creatures is its long nose that it effectively uses as a snorkel allowing the rest of its body to stay underwater or covered in mud while it lays in wait for prey to pass by.
A few years ago I came upon a female Softshell Turtle laying eggs in a nest she had dug out of the sand alongside a trail at Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge.
Unfortunately, though I dutifully informed the staff of my find, and the nest was properly marked off to denote it, this effort was for naught since less than a week later I came out to find the nest stake in pieces on the ground and the area being used as a parking lot for large construction vehicles, one of which, a large earth-mover, was parked right atop the nest along with the whole area being completely stripped of vegetation.
Dr. Moore pointed out that “ferox” in the Softshell Turtle’s Latin name means “ferocious”, something anyone who has had occasion to try and move these animals off a busy road can attest to. For that reason I carry a folding army shovel in my car, which comes in handy in scooping these Turtles off the road and to safety. Frequently that long neck comes out and its powerful jaws snap dangerously but the length of the shovel meant we would both make it out safely in the end.
According to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, “Turtles with reduced shells or soft shells tend to be more aggressive than their more protected relatives.”
As promised, here is an image of a Softshell Turtle in the water with its long neck stretched out with only its snorkel nose and eyes above the water. The long neck must play a part in helping the Turtle catch its prey. Ungainly on land, these creatures are at home in the water.