Recognized Subspecies in VA: Southeastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum subrubrum)
Size: 3 - 4 inches
Range: Piedmont, Coastal Plain, and Eastern Shore
Status: Least Concern
These small turtles frequent the shallows of most slow-moving water bodies in the Piedmont, Coastal Plains, and the Eastern Shore. When threatened, Mud Turtles will bolt and burry themselves in plant materials and... you guessed it: mud. The Southeastern Mud Turtle is the most common and widespread Mud Turtle in Virginia. These turtles are generally brown, with some yellow pattern on their face that looks like it was splashed on. Hatchlings are about black, with a orange plastron. Mud Turtles have a spine on their tail, similar to a claw. This helps them grip onto grasses as they reach out and feed under water. They feed on mostly aquatic invertebrates such as worms, snails, and dragonfly larva but they do love tadpoles as well.
This species basks low or even in the shallow water, so finding one basking in plain sight is rare. I find many by scanning shallows at night with a flashlight, or occasionally in the day. They can often be found in the road April-May when they are emerging to lay eggs.
Similar Species: The Striped Mud Turtle is similar and only found in the coastal plain. These turtles are incredibly dark, and have two distinct lines (the most prominent goes from the nostril, through the eye and down the neck) that fade with age. Striped Muds also have taller pectoral scutes than Southeasterns. Common Musk Turtles are similar, and too have similar stripes to the Striped Mud for much of their lives. Most Musk Turtles have fairly keeled scales, but these do change shape with age as well. Male Musk Turtles have larger heads, and all Musk Turtles will have scent glands on their plastron and lack a spined tail.
Maps and External Sources
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