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Reptiles Guide


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Common Musk TurtleSternotherus odoratus
Common Musk Turtle
Sternotherus odoratus
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Sauropsida
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Superfamily: Kinosternoidea
Family: Kinosternidae
Agassiz, 1857
Claudius (genus)

Kinosternidae is a family of mostly small turtles that includes the mud and musk turtles. The family Kinosternidae contains 25 species within 4 genera, but taxonomic reclassification is an ongoing process so many sources vary on the exact numbers of species and subspecies. They inhabit slow-moving bodies of water, often with soft, muddy bottoms and abundant vegetation.



Most kinosternids are small turtles, between 4 and 6 inches with a heavily domed shell that has a distinct keel down its center. The genus Staurotypus gets much larger, to 12 inches. Females are generally larger than males, but males have a much longer tail. They can be black, brown, green, or yellowish in color. Most species do not have shell markings, but some species have radiating black markings on each carapace scute. Some species have distinctive yellow striping along the sides of their head and neck.

The musk turtles are so named because they are capable of releasing a foul smelling musk from glands under the rear of their shell when disturbed. They are native to North and South America.


All members of the family are carnivores, feeding on crustaceans, aquatic insects, mollusks, annelids, amphibians, small fish, and sometimes carrion.


Kinosternids lay approximately four hard-shelled eggs during the late spring and early summer. After hatching, some species overwinter in the subterranean nest, emerging the following spring. Some adults also spend the winter on land, constructing a burrow with a small air hole that is used on warm days.

Kinosternids contain the only species of turtle known, or at least suspected, to exhibit parental care. Studies of the yellow mud turtle in Nebraska, USA, suggest females sometimes stay with the nest and may urinate on the eggs long after laying, to either keep them moist or to protect them from snake predation (by making them less palatable).


Family Kinosternidae
Subfamily Kinosterninae

  • Genus Kinosternon
    • Tabasco Mud Turtle, Kinosternon acutum (Gray, 1831)
      Alamos Mud Turtle, Kinosternon alamosae (Berry & Legler, 1980)
      Central American Mud Turtle, Kinosternon angustipons (Legler, 1965)
      Striped Mud Turtle, Kinosternon baurii (Garman, 1891)
      Jalisco Mud Turtle, Kinosternon chimalhuaca (Berry, Seidel, & Iverson, 1997)
      Creaser's Mud Turtle, Kinosternon creaseri (Hartweg, 1934)
      Red-cheeked Mud Turtle, Kinosternon cruentatum (Duméril, Bibron & Duméril, 1851)
Mississippi Mud Turtle, Kinosternon subrubrum hippocrepis
Mississippi Mud Turtle, Kinosternon subrubrum hippocrepis
    • Colombian Mud Turtle, Kinosternon dunni (Schmidt, 1947)
      Yellow Mud Turtle, Kinosternon flavescens (Agassiz, 1857)
      Herrara's Mud Turtle , Kinosternon herrerai (Stejneger, 1945)
      Mexican Mud Turtle, Kinosternon hirtipes (Wagler, 1830)
      Mexican Mud Turtle, Kinosternon integrum (Le Conte, 1854)
      White-lipped Mud Turtle, Kinosternon leucostomum (Duméril, Bibron & Duméril, 1851)
      Oaxaca Mud Turtle, Kinosternon oaxacae (Berry & Iverson, 1980)
Razorback Musk Turtle, Sternotherus carinatus
Razorback Musk Turtle, Sternotherus carinatus
    • Scorpion Mud Turtle, Kinosternon scorpioides (Linnaeus, 1766)
      Sonoran Mud Turtle, Kinosternon sonoriense (Le Conte, 1854)
      Kinosternon spurrelli (Boulenger, 1913)
      Eastern Mud Turtle, Kinosternon subrubrum (Lacépède, 1788)
  • Genus Sternotherus
    • Razorback Musk Turtle, Sternotherus carinatus (Gray, 1855)
      Flattened Musk Turtle, Sternotherus depressus (Tinkle & Webb, 1955)
      Loggerhead Musk Turtle, Sternotherus minor (Agassiz, 1857)
      Common Musk Turtle or Stinkpot, Sternotherus odoratus (Sonnini & Latreille, 1802)

Subfamily Staurotypinae

  • Genus Claudius
    • Narrow-bridged Musk Turtle, Claudius angustatus (Cope, 1865)
  • Genus Staurotypus
    • Chiapus Giant Musk Turtle, Staurotypus salvinii (Gray, 1864)
      Mexican Giant Musk Turtle, Staurotypus triporcatus (Wiegmann, 1828)


Home | Up | List of Testudines families | Chelodina | Fictional turtles | Kinosternidae | Sea turtles | Tortoises | Cheloniinae | African helmeted turtle

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