The Chinese Softshell Turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis) is a freshwater chelonian and a reptile. It is called softshell because its shell does not have scales – instead, its shell is leathery and flexible, which enables it to move more easily at the bottom of muddy lakes.
The Chinese Softshell Turtle has an olive-green upper shell, called a carapace. Its lower shell, called a plastron, is orange-red. Its legs and head are olive-green. It has dark flecks on its head and dark lines from its eyes. Its throat is mottled. It has a long snout (nose) and a short tail. It has flipper feet to enable it to swim in water.
It measures about 33 centimetres (13 inches) in length.
The Chinese Softshell Turtle is native to China and Taiwan. It prefers freshwater rivers, but will also live in brackish water (slightly salty water). It prefers rivers, lakes, ponds, canals, creeks, marshes, and streams with slow-moving water. It spends most of its time in water.
It is carnivorous, eating fish, crabs, shrimp, molluscs, and insects. It is mainly nocturnal, feeding at night.
With their long snout and tubelike nostrils, the Chinese Softshell Turtle can “snorkel” in shallow water. When resting, it lies at the bottom of the river, buried in sand or mud, lifting its head to breathe.
The female Chinese Softshell Turtle lays 8-30 eggs in a nest. The eggs are round. They hatch after about 60 days.
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
Martina Nicolls: SIMILAR BUT DIFFERENT IN THE ANIMAL KINGDOM