Coming in at a gigantic 3-4 inches, kinosternon subrubrum, or the common mud turtle, is one of the most common pet turtles in North America.
About the Mud Turtle
Common mud turtles are some of the longest living turtles, living up to 50 years! They also stay mostly on land as opposed to water.
Mud turtles are so named as they love to burrow deep down into the mud when they hibernate over the winter, although if you have one in captivity, providing it with mud is not necessary (just ensure that the tank doesn’t get too cold).
Common Name: Common Mud Turtle
Type of Eater: Omnivore
Size & Weight: 7.5 – 10 cm
Distribution: Southeast United States
Unique Feature: Has 11 plates vs. 12 for most other turtles, also secretes a foul odor.
Although they are very popular in the pet turtle community, they differ in one important aspect compared to other popular turtles like sliders and painted turtles in their care; they are semi-terrestrial (meaning they like to spend a good portion of their lives out of the water).
There are multiple species of the common mud turtle, but in general, they tend to be olive-brown to black in color, both on their head and legs and their shell.
Around their heads, they may have lighter-colored strips emerging from their nose and mouth all the way down their neck.
Their upper shell (carapace) is usually darker in cover, while their plastron (underneath shell) is typically a lighter shade of brown or darker yellow.
The easiest way to identify a mud turtle is by how many plates (called scutes) it has on their shell.
Most other common turtles will have 12, mud turtles all have 11, both on their upper and lower shells.
Another easy way to identify a mud turtle is by any foul-smelling odor emitted by them.
In the natural environment, mud (and musk) turtles will emit a very foul-smell to ward off potential predators and threats. Typically, however, this does not happen when they are in captivity and do not feel threatened.
Females will attain sexual maturity in five to eight years and with males, it is usually four to seven.
The more to the north the mud turtle breed, the fewer times it will lay eggs in one year (mud turtles in the north may lay one batch of eggs, while those in the south may lay up to three). Their eggs will typically take a little more than 70 days to incubate and hatch. In the natural environment, mud (and musk) turtles will emit a very foul-smell to ward off potential predators and threats. Typically, however, this does not happen when they are in captivity and do not feel threatened.
Common mud turtles are typically found in the southeast United States but may live as far north as New York (where they are listed as endangered).
You can typically find them in highly vegetative, slow-moving waters such as ponds, creeks, marshes, ditches and smaller offshore islands.
During the summer they are usually found foraging along the bottom of brackish, slow-moving water searching for food and over the summer, they tend to become a little more terrestrial.
Unfortunately for mud turtles, this often means crossing oft-used or congested roads, where they often don’t make it.
Being maimed and/or killed by passing cars has been one of the biggest threats to mud turtles for some time now, and does not appear to be changing.
Mud turtles are omnivores that like to occasionally munch on plants and flowers such as dandelions, but they prefer to eat things such as mealworms, crayfish, smaller fish and insects for the bulk of their diet.
If they are held in captivity, it is best to supplement their diet with turtle pellets and ensure that they get a balanced diet of vegetable greens (not iceberg) and worms, crayfish, fish, etc.
Since mud turtles spend most of their time at the bottom, you should check out the best sinking turtle foods.
Because of their ease in handling and small size, mud turtles are one of the more popular types of turtles used as pets. As such, they are great for beginners.
For more information on taking care of pet turtles, check this article here: