The scorpion mud turtle is a very interesting little turtle that is native to the Americas. It’s an aquatic turtle, and they aren’t a very popular pet choice however they have quite good personalities for keeping as a pet, as they are quite curious, playful, and are fairly easy to look after.
As with all turtles, there is a lot of key information to get to grips with before considering owning these pets, as they are quite different from typical pets and have plenty of unique qualities, needs, and quirks that all owners need to be aware of to keep their beloved new pet safe and healthy.
In this article, we’re going to look at some of these specifics, to give you more of an idea about how these turtles behave, where they come from and how best to look after them.
We’ll break down everything from health concerns to life cycle and temperament, to make sure you get a pet that suits you perfectly and that will benefit from many years of proper care and love.
Let’s get started with some details about the scorpion mud turtle’s physiology, and how to properly identify them.
Male vs. Female
One of the most important and sometimes difficult parts of turtle care is proper identification, not just of the species itself but between males and females.
For a lot of turtle species and subspecies, males tend to be larger than females. However, for the Scorpion Mud Turtle, females are quite often of a similar size or may even be larger than males.
The key differences that determine individual size are the quality of diet and the cleanliness of the water that the turtle lives in.
One way to distinguish them however is by looking at the tail. Males tend to have a slightly larger prehensile tail than females, while females tend to have a rounder carapace and bigger plastrons on the underside of their shell.
There are few key identifiers, as colors vary and the head sizes are largely too similar between the sexes to differentiate between.
The Scorpion Mud Turtle is quite unique among turtles with a few telltale markings and characteristics that can help you make a positive identification. Their size ranges from medium to large and can be anywhere from 9 cm long to almost 30 cm long, so there is quite a bit of variance making size a poor indicator of this species.
Their shells also have variable domes, however, the carapace is oval and is often dark in color with lighter or yellow scutes.
Skin coloration ranges quite widely, from black to grey and brown to yellow, with red and orange lines and spots on the head and neck. The patterns of these lines and spots are one of the best identifiers of this subspecies as they are particular in color and shape to this type of turtle, and are a sure way to correctly identify them.
As a Pet
They can be a good option for a pet as they are relatively easy to care for and have a fairly calm temperament despite their name.
As with all turtles, however, they aren’t a very easy option if you own children as even the most docile turtles have a vicious bite if handled incorrectly and can also claw quite aggressively if disturbed or anxious.
They also tend to carry salmonella as all turtles do, so washing hands after handling are key to prevent spreading harmful bacteria. If children do handle turtles they must be watched and prevented from eating, putting their hands in their eyes or mouth until their hands are washed to help prevent this bacteria from making children ill.
This may mean that turtles don’t make a convenient choice, however, as long as you are cautious it’s quite easy to keep your pet and your beloved safe from any accidents.
Turtles in general are known to have very long lifespans when compared to most other household pets, and this subspecies is no exception.
In captivity, they have been known to live for up to 44 or 45 years, and this makes them a huge, almost lifelong commitment, and their needs can often be quite specific and these consistent long-term needs aren’t for the fickle owner.
In the wild turtles will tend to live shorter lives due to predators and harsher conditions, and as turtles get older they are prone to several health issues which mean they do need to be looked after if you want your turtle to have a good and long life.
They are adapted to water as an aquatic species and will live in almost any body of water quite easily. If hungry enough this species will resort to cannibalism.
There isn’t very much information about this species and their breeding habits, however, there are some key things we do know.
Females will lay anything up to 5 separate clutches during the breeding season and these clutches will contain anything from 1 to 8 eggs, and the sex of the hatchlings is determined by the temperatures the nest is exposed to during the incubation period.
Typically the nests are made on land near to water and are quite rudimentary, seldom covered, or hidden very well which makes it quite easy for predators to find eggs and make an easy meal of them.
The eggs of the scorpion mud turtle are peculiar compared to other turtle species as they are very much affected by temperature and moisture levels and can incubate for up to 12 months depending on the conditions and how favorable they are.
As with most turtles, the sex is determined by temperature, and an ideal range centers around 28 degrees Celsius or 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Clutches tend to yield a variety of males and females at this range, but if the temperature drops below this the clutch will be predominantly male, and if it goes over this the clutch will be predominantly female.
Hatchlings break out of their eggs individually but will often help their brothers and sisters by assisting them in breaking out.
They rarely grow larger than 5 inches and will tend to grow while young, and this then slows to an eventual stop as they get older.
This is a species endemic to the Americas. They prefer slow-moving watercourses with muddy bottoms. Not much is known about their breeding season, but it’s usually ongoing throughout the early to late summer where incubation is easiest, and nests are laid on land but near to water to make it easier for hatchlings to find their first water source.
Population numbers aren’t known but these are a very widespread species and are listed as least concern according to their conservation status.
This species is mainly carnivorous but is an omnivore capable of eating vegetation. They mainly feed on insects, small fish, amphibians, worms, snails, crustaceans and also scavenge for carrion whenever they can both on land and in the water.
They can be fed aquatic turtle food but it’s best to complement this with other sources of food such as shrimps, worms, fish, and invertebrates. They can also eat other meat such as lean beef or pork.
They prefer to feed while in water, so some people feed them in a separate container to help keep their main tank cleaner.
They are preyed on by large cats, owls, and raptors, and it isn’t uncommon for alligators and large fish to try and prey on turtles of this size. Coyotes and raccoons will also try to find and eat their eggs if they can.
This species originates in the Americas and can be found widely throughout it, from central America down as far as Argentina and north into the US.
Turtles are prone to all sorts of diseases, the most common being skin infections that occur due to poor water quality and parasites that can be picked up from their food or the environment.
Keeping turtles well fed and in a well-maintained tank will help avoid most of these issues. If you notice your turtle is lethargic or has diarrhea then it may have parasites and worming tablets may need to be used.
Their eye color tends to be dark with a yellow or white ring.
Most mud turtle species hibernate in the winter to stave off the effects of cold weather and do this by burrowing into the mud to stay warm, however, captive turtles don’t need to hibernate if conditions are kept consistent. That being said, some owners do lower temperature slightly to induce hibernation, however, it’s not known if this is better for turtles’ health or not.
Can they Swim?
As an aquatic species, this turtle can indeed swim and enjoy deep aquariums with space to swim around.
Scorpion Mud Turtles are actually one of the easier species of turtle to care for, and require little attention aside from keeping their aquarium clean and making sure the water is both clear and quite deep. They can develop skin infections if the water is left dirty.
They can be purchased for around 40 to 60 dollars.
They are quite gluttonous!