Chinese soft-shell terrapins

Chinese soft-shell terrapins

Pelodiscus sinensis

Common name:

Chinese soft-shell terrapins

Scientific name:

Pelodiscus sinensis

Alternative common names:


The Chinese soft-shelled turtle is well adapted to aquatic environments, including brackish swamps and marshes. These turtles are predominantlycarnivorousand the remains offish,crustaceans,mollusks,insects, and seeds of marsh plants have been found in their stomachs.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?

Southern China, Russia, Japan, Korea and Vietnam.

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

NEMBA-Category 1b

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

KwaZulu-Natal Province.

How does it spread?

Spread via pet trade. However, many specimens found could be turtles escaped from cultivation.

Why is it a problem?

Unknown; but the potential for this highly carnivorous turtle to have a negative impact on indigenous aquatic fauna in various region of introduction seems likely, if it has not occurred already.

What does it look like?

Description: Colour olive grey to greenish brown with numerous yellow-bordered black spots and yellowish dots in younger individuals; yellow spotting tends to disappear in adults; many adults show no pattern and have uniformly olive carapaces. It has round to oval carapace; ridge of carapace in males slightly sunken with round-shape at posterior; longer neck and tail than females; plastron sunken for clasping female carapace during copulation; neck can be extended to end of carapace; more active than females. Shell of females rough with oval carapace; plastron almost arched; tail and neck is thicker than male; space between two posterior legs larger than male; more timorous and meek than males. Generally, males differ from females in being shallower and having long, thick tails, with the vent near the tip. Females are more domed and the tails barely extend past the carapace rim. Females are normally larger than males, to allow for egg development.

Habitat: It is usually found in rivers, lakes, ponds, canals, and creeks with slow currents and also occurs in marshes and drainage ditches.

Breeding: These turtles reach sexual maturity sometime between 4 and 6 years of age. They mate at the surface or under water. The females lay 8–30 eggs in a clutch and may lay from 2 to 5 clutches each year. After an incubation period of about 60 days, which may be longer or shorter depending upon temperature, the eggs hatch.

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