Eastern Musk Turtle

Scientific Name: Sternotherus odoratus
Size: 2 - 5 inches (5.1 - 11.5 cm)
Status: Abundant

Marshes, swamps, canals, small ponds, lakes and rivers.

Very small aquatic species. The upper shell is dark gray to black turtle often covered with algae. White or yellow stripes along either side of the head and a series of small barbels under the chin. Yellow to light brown plastron.

Adult Coloration:
  • The carapace color is dark olive-brown to almost black and is usually unpatterned but small black blotches may occur that sometimes form short random streaks.
  • The plastron is yellow to dark brown.
  • The skin of the legs and tail are dark grey to black and usually unmarked, but may have small black spots. A pale yellow strip may be present on the lateral edge of the forelegs
  • The head’s background color is dark grey to black with a pair of yellow or white stripes on each side of the head that originate on the snout and diverge backwards with one occurring above the eye and one below the eye.
Adult Characteristics:
  • Very small aquatic species.
  • Profile View- The carapace is high and rounded.
  • Above View – The carapace is oblong.
  • Three dorsal keels are present in juveniles and subadults.
  • Adults have a smooth shell with a medial keel along the anterior vertebral scute.
  • The plastron is small and exposes much of the underside of the legs.
  • The plastral seams are extremely wide.
  • The neck is long and the head seems too large for the body.
  • The chin and underside of the throat have barbels.
  • The legs are moderately well-developed.
  • The feet have some webbing.
Juvenile Characteristics:
  • Similar to adults

May be Confused With:
  • Hulse, C. and McCoy C. J. and Ellen Censky ,1998. Amphibians and Reptiles of Pennsylvania and the Northeast. 196-200pp.
  • Ernst, Carl H. and Lovich, Jeffrey E., and Barbour, Roger W. ,1994. Turtles of the United States and Canada. 139-149pp.
  • Bob Hamilton
  • Wayne Fidler
  • Billy Brown
  • Rex Everett
  • Don Becker (psychoticnature.com)
  • Stephen Staedtler

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