Eastern Mud Turtle Kinosternon subrubrum

Adult from northern Georgia

Identification

The Eastern Mud Turtle is a small species, with a carapace length averaging 2¾ to 4 in (7 to 10 cm) for adults. The head is irregularly mottled or streaked with yellow. The carapace is domed, yellow to black, and lacks a keel or distinctive pattern. The plastron is yellow to brown and may have varying amounts of dark markings. They are sometimes confused with Stinkpots (also known as Musk Turtles). However, the plastron of the Eastern Mud Turtle differs from that of the Stinkpot in that it is double hinged and has a triangular shaped pectoral scute. Also unlike Stinkpots, they don't have two stripes on the face. They have a relatively small plastron, but unlike Stinkpots, it has two hinges forming a "K" shape (for Kinosternon).

Sexes are similar in size. Males have a longer pre-anal length with the vent posterior to the rim of the carapace. Juvenile Eastern Mud Turtles are darker in color, lack markings on the head, and their plastron is orange to red with a dark center.

Eastern Mud Turtles are most notably confused with other mud turtle species, but they can be distinguished. The Striped Mud Turtle has a striped head and carapace, while the Yellow Mud Turtles 9th marginal scute is significantly higher than the 8th. Eastern Mud Turtles are also often confused with Stinkpots; however, Eastern Mud Turtles have 2 hinges on their plastron opposed to just one on the Eastern Musk Turtle.

Ecology and Conservation

Eastern Mud Turtles are semi-aquatic and prefer relatively calm, shallow bodies of water. Wet meadows, ponds, marshes, and drainage ditches are typical habitats. In coastal areas, Eastern Mud Turtles can tolerate brackish water and are found on the edges of tidal marshes and offshore islands. Although they do not bask often, they are much more terrestrial than the Stinkpot and can be observed often on land from spring to fall. Eastern Mud Turtles reach maturity at about 4 to 8 years of ages. Captive individuals have lived up to 38 years. Eastern Mud Turtles are predominately bottom feeders. Their diet consists of a variety of insects, mollusks, tadpoles, crustaceans, carrion, and aquatic vegetation.

The Eastern Mud Turtle is listed as State Endangered in Illinois and Indiana. A variety of animals including raccoons, snakes, weasels, skunks, foxes, and crows eat the eggs or juveniles of this species. Direct human impacts include road kills and habitat destruction.

Distribution

The Eastern Mud Turtle inhabits slow-moving, shallow waters from Long Island south to Florida, along the Gulf Coast to east-central Texas, and north along the Mississippi Valley to Missouri, southern Illinois, and Indiana. In Indiana, the Eastern Mud Turtle is found in the southwestern part of the state with isolated populations in the northwest.

Taxonomy

Indiana is home to one subspecies of the Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum)--the Southeastern Mud Turtle (K. s. subrubrum). These turtles belong to the family Kinosternidae, which is represented in Indiana by a total of two species.

Literature Cited

Conant, R. and J. T . Collins. 1998. Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America. Third Edition, Expanded. Houghton Mifflin, New York, NY.

Ernst, C. H. and J. E. Lovich. 2009. Turtles of the United States and Canada. Second Edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD.

Minton, S. A. Jr. 2001. Amphibians and Reptiles of Indiana. Indiana Academy of Science, Indianapolis, IN.

Distribution Map
Distribution map of Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum)
Photographs