The Soft Shelled Turtle

Scienfic Name:- Trionyx Spp

There are several sub species of soft shelled turtles,   all with a characteristic rubbery flattened shell which lacks the bony scutes (shields) that other chelonia possess.   The colour of the shell is similar to the colour of the sand or mud allowing them to lie in wait of passing food and perform a surprise attack on the unsuspecting prey with an extendable neck that darts forward and then grips with the very strong jaw and bite.

The carapace has a layer of solid bone beneath it,   with the outer part of the shell and the edges being softer and more flexible,   allowing the turtle to move more easily in water and on the muddy beds of lakes.

Soft shelled turtles have long necks,   enabling them to breathe air above the surface of the water whilst keeping their bodies submerged in the mud.   They can,   however,   stay underwater for extended periods as they are able to extract a small amount of oxygen out of the water via their skin.

Care is required when keeping these turtles as a large turtle could cause serious damage to a human hand if given the opportunity.   They can be aggressive and therefore are not recommended pets for the first time turtle keeper.   They do not get on well with other turtles,   so should be kept individually or if more than one turtle is being kept their interaction should be closely monitored.

Habitat :- The housing for a pet soft shelled turtle needs to be a large tank with a sand substrate,   a basking area such as a ledge or a rock,   a full spectrum UV bulb and a heater above the basking area. There should be a water heater and a high powered water filter as these creatures are very messy feeders.   The water should be completely changed at least every two weeks.   Plants and hides such as driftwood or caves in the tank are appreciated by the turtles but care must be taken not to place anything in the tank that can cause injure to the shell.

Diet :- They are carnivorous,   and in the wild their diet would consist of fish,   shrimp,   cray-fish,   water insects and even small birds or mammals.   In captivity,   a varied diet should be offered with a suitable Calcium and Vitamin D3 supplement.   As with other turtles,   they need to be fully submerged in water to be able to swallow their food.

Life expectancy :- 24 to 45 years.

Shell infections are the commonest reason for presentation to the veterinary surgeon and can be life threatening if not treated properly.

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