Sternotherus odoratus
(Latreille 1802)

stĭr-nō-thĭr-ŭs — ō-dŏr-ā-tŭs

Image © Suzanne L. Collins, CNAH.

A small aquatic-turtle with a dark brown or black carapace, and a reduced, yellowish colored plastron. Skin color is dark, and a pair of yellow stripes are present on each side of the head. Two small barbels are present on the chin.
Adults normally 51-115 mm (2-4½ inches) in carapace length; largest specimen from Kansas: female (KU 45016) from Linn County with carapace length of 114 mm (4½ inches) collected by William L. Minckley on 10 September 1957; maximum carapace length throughout range: 5 3/8 inches (Conant and Collins, 1998).

A record from Wallace County (KU 3028) exists and is undoubtedly in error. Grant (1937) states that "numbers of these turtles were observed in the turtle traps" at the State Fish Hatchery in Pratt on 29 August 1929. Currently, no specimens are known from Pratt County.
The habitat of the common musk turtle includes any kind of permanent body of water, like shallow streams, ponds, rivers, or clear water lakes, and it is rare to find the turtle elsewhere. While in the water, this musk turtle stays mainly in shallow areas. Sometimes it can be found basking on nearby fallen tree trunks or in the branches of trees overhanging the water.

(, Museum Voucher) (, Observation) (, Literature Record)
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  • Occurrence Summary:  
  • 89 Total Records 
  • 80 Museum Vouchers 
  • 9 Other Observations 
Some county occurrences indicated below may be too imprecise to map above.
County Breakdown: County Name (# occurrences):
Allen (1); Anderson (1); Bourbon (2); Chautauqua (2); Cherokee (13); Cowley (4); Crawford (12); Douglas (8); Elk (1); Franklin (1); Greenwood (2); Johnson (2); Labette (2); Leavenworth (4); Linn (3); Miami (7); Montgomery (14); Neosho (2); Wallace (1); Wilson (1); Woodson (5); Wyandotte (1);

Natural History:
Eastern Musk Turtles are a generalist species occurring in a wide range of aquatic habitats in eastern Kansas. They have an omnivorous diet consuming aquatic vegetation, insects, earthworms, snails, crayfish, carrion, and garbage. They are capable climbers, sometimes basking in trees as high as six feet above the water. The species name originates from its ability to excrete a foul-smelling musk when alarmed.
The female common musk turtle is known to dig shallow nests at the water's edge under rotting logs or dead leaves, and sometimes these turtles will nest two or more times a year. Communal nesting also occurs frequently within this species. The turtles mate underwater, and the females lay one to nine eggs sometime between February and June. The hatchlings emerge 60 to 84 days later.

Occurrence Activity:
White dates indicate there is at least a single recorded occurrence on that date. The darker blue a date is, the greater the relative number of observations for that date.
Eastern Musk Turtles were seined from pools in the dried up bed of Silver Creek II miles southeast of Winfield, Cowley County, Kansas, on August 31, 1934, (Burt 1935).
Burt and Hoyle (1935) reported on a young specimen taken in a seine from the wooded Sandy creek, a branch of the Verdigris River, in southern Woodson County, Kansas, at a point 5 1/2 miles northeast of Coyville on 27 June 27, 1931.

1928 Burt, Charles E. Some distributional and ecological records of Kansas reptiles. Transactions of the Academy of Science St. Louis 26():186-208
1935 Burt, Charles E. Further records of the ecology and distribution of amphibians and reptiles in the middle west. American Midland Naturalist 16(3):311-366
1935 Burt, Charles E. and William L. Hoyle. Additional records of the reptiles of the central prairie region of the United States Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science 37():193-216
1937 Grant, Chapman. Herpetological notes from Central Kansas. American Midland Naturalist 18(3):370-372
1941 Mansueti, R. A descriptive catalogue of the amphibians and reptiles found in and around Baltimore City, Maryland, within a radius of twenty miles. Proceedings of the Natural History Society of Maryland 7():1-53
1956 Clarke, Robert F. Identification of Kansas turtles. Kansas School Naturalist 2(4):1-3
1956 Clarke, Robert F. Turtles in Kansas. Kansas School Naturalist 2(4):1-15
1976 Caldwell, Janalee P. and Gregory. Glass. Vertebrates of the Woodson County State Fishing Lake and Game Management Area. Pages 62-76 in Preliminary inventory of the biota of Woodson County State Fishing Lake and Game Management Area. Report No. 5. State Biological Survey of Kansas, Lawrence. pp.
1978 Conant, Roger and James F. Berry. Turtles of the family Kinosternidae in the Southwestern United States and adjacent Mexico: Identification and distribution. American Museum Novitates (2642):1-18
1982 Reynolds, Samuel L. and Michael E. Seidel. Sternotherus odoratus. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (287):1-4
1986 Terry, P. A. Biological survey of the KS segments of Spring River and Shoal Creek. Part 1. Field Survey. Draft. Kansas Fish and Game, Pratt, Kansas. 67pp.
1986 Zug, George R. Sternotherus. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles (397):1-3
1992 Edds, David R. Population status and incidence of anatomical abnormalities in semiaquatic turtles of the Walnut and lower Arkansas river basins. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt. 58pp.
1998 Bentley, Curtis C and James L. Knight. Turtles (Reptilia: Testudines) of the Ardis Local Fauna Late Pleistocene (Rancholabrean) of South Carolina. Brimleyana (25):3-33
2001 Collins, Joseph T. New records of amphibians and reptiles in Kansas for 2000. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (124):6-8
2001 Taggart, Travis W. The KHS 2001 spring field trip: A rainy rendezvous. Kansas Herpetological Society Newsletter (124):12-14
2002 Riedle, J. Daren and A. Hynek. Amphibian and reptile inventory of the Kansas Army Ammunition Plant, Labette County, Kansas. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (2):18-20
2005 Taggart, Travis W. Results of the KHS 2005 fall field trip [to Crawford County]. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (16):19-21
2006 Taggart, Travis W. Distribution and status of Kansas herpetofauna in need of information. State Wildlife Grant T7. Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, Pratt. vii + 106pp.
2008 Taggart, Travis W. KHS 2008 spring field trip. Journal of Kansas Herpetology (25):2-3
2012 Rohweder, Megan R. Spatial conservation prioritization of Kansas for terrestrial vertebrates. Thesis. Fort Hays State University, Hays, Kansas. 151pp.
2016 Lozar, Robert C. and James D. Westervelt Application of Maxent Multivariate Analysis to Define Reptile Species Distributions and Changes Related to Climate Change. US Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Champaign, Illinois.. 100pp.
Account Last Updated:
6/26/2018 4:40:49 PM

Travis W. Taggart © 2020 — Sternberg Museum of Natural History, Fort Hays State University