Florida softshell turtles have shells that are tan or dark brown on top and white or cream colored underneath, according to Lakejacksonturtles.org. Hatchlings of Florida softshell turtles are a dark brown olive color with large circular dark spots. The Florida softshell turtles are quickly becoming endangered because of overharvesting.
Adult female Florida softshell turtles can reach 24 inches in length, according to Lakejacksonturtles.org. Mature male Florida softshell turtles grow up to 14 inches in length. The Florida softshell turtle is the largest species of New World softshell turtle, according to the Smithsonian Zoological Park.
Male Florida softshell turtles have thicker and longer tails than female Florida softshell turtles, according to Lakejacksonturtles.org. Florida softshell turtles have a high tolerance for brackish water, according to the Smithsonian Zoological Park. Softshell turtles are often extremely aggressive, biting each other and even the hands of humans. Florida softshell turtles commonly spend large amounts of time buried beneath the soil at the bottom of water.
Florida softshell turtles are found from the southeastern lower coastal planes of South Carolina to Mobile, Alabama, according to Lakejacksonturtles.org. Florida softshell turtles commonly live in freshwater habitats including lakes, ponds, rivers, canals, swamps and urban storm water ponds. They thrive in shallow water that moves slowly, with soft bottom soil and large amounts of aquatic vegetation. The only region of Florida where Florida softshell turtles are not found is in the Florida keys, according to the Smithsonian Zoological Park.
Florida softshell turtles are omnivorous creatures meaning they feed on both plants and animals, according to Lakejacksonturtles.org. The diet of the Florida softshell turtle commonly includes snails, insects, crustaceans, amphibians, live fish, dead fish, algae and aquatic plants.
In some regions, Florida softshell turtles have been harvested heavily for their meat, and many populations in northern Florida have begun to decline, according to Lakejacksonturtles.org.
Florida softshell turtles typically live between five and eight years, according to Lakejacksonturtles.org. Juvenile mortality is not uncommon among the Florida softshell turtle species. Recovery from overharvesting is typically extremely slow among this turtle species.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission created a law in 2000 which prohibits the harvesting of Florida softshell turtles between May 1 and July 31, which is during their mating season, according to Lakejacksonturtles.org. Florida softshell turtles are capable of exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide through their skin in the water, according to the Smithsonian Zoological Park.