ISSN 2398-2985  

Common musk turtle


Synonym(s): Eastern musk turtle, Stinkpot, Sternotherus odoratus


Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Animalia.
  • Phylum: Chordata.
  • Class: Reptilia.
  • Order: Testudines.
  • Suborder: Cryptodira.
  • Family: Kinosternidae.
  • Genus: Sternotherus.
  • Species: S. odoratus.

Distribution and habitat

  • The Common musk turtle is nearly entirely aquatic, so they spend a lot of time in shallow creeks, ponds an rivers.
  • They are found in a variety of wetland habitats and water sources close to shore.
  • They only venture onto land when the female is laying her eggs, or occasionally to bask.
  • They can also climb and can be seen basking on fallen trees.
  • The Common musk turtle ranges in southern Ontario, southern Quebec and Eastern United States including Maine, Florida, Texas and Wisconsin. The diversity of habitats means they are very adaptable to different environments.

Species status

  • Recorded by the IUCN as least concern.
  • They are a common species within their native habitats.
  • The main threats against them are humans inhabiting and damaging their habitats near wetlands.
  • It is protected by the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA).

Life span

  • In captivity individuals have been recorded at 50+ years.
  • In the wild it has been estimated they reach ages of approximately 20-30 years.


  • As an omnivorous species however, they are mainly carnivorous. They feed on a wide variety of aquatic invertebrates including snails, tadpoles, crayfish, insects, clams and aquatic larvae; they will also eat fish and consume some vegetable matter Chelonia nutrition.
  • A hatchling’s diet is much more carnivorous than an adult’s.


  • Sexual maturity:
    • Males - 4 years old.
    • Females - may take 4-10 years.
  • Breeding occurs in the spring.
  • Females lay 2-9 hard-shelled eggs in a shallow burrow or under shoreline debris Chelonia reproduction.
  • Eggs hatch in late summer or early fall.

As pets

  • Makes for a better choice of pet than other commonly available species due to its small size.
  • They will readily accept a diet of shop bought turtle pellets, algae wafers and insects, however a varied diet is essential. The fresher the food, the more nutritional value it will have, and better for the tortoise.
  • Will require UVA/UVB lighting.

Biological Data

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Further Reading


Refereed papers

Other sources of information

  • Exotic pet (2018) Common Musk Turtle. Website: Last accessed 29th January 2018.
  • Integrated Taxonomic Information System (2018) Sternotherus odoratus (Latreille in Sonnini and Latreille, 1801). Website: Last accessed 15th June 2018 .
  • Reptiles magazine (2018) Common Musk Turtle Care Sheet. Website: Last accessed 29th January 2018.
  • Virginia Herpetological Society (2018) Eastern Musk Turtle. Website: Last accessed 15th June 2018.
  • van Dijk P P (2015) Sternotherus odoratus (errata version published in 2016). In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Website: Last accessed 15th June 2018.
  • Miller R & Fowler M (2015) Reptile Groups. In: Fowlers Zoo & Wild Animal Medicine. 8th edn. Elsevier Saunders, USA. pp 28.
  • Mossburg C (2015) Sternotherus carinatus. Website: Last accessed 15th June 2018.
  • Girling S (2013) Basic Reptile and Amphibian Anatomy and Physiology. In: Veterinary Nursing of Exotic Pets. 2nd edn. Wiley-Blackwell, UK. pp 259.
  • Hall D (2011) Tortoises and Turtles. In: The Ultimate Guide to Snakes & Reptiles. Hermes House, UK. pp 123-124.
  • Webb C (2010) The Care and Breeding of Musk Turtles. Website: Last accessed 15th June 2018.
  • World Chelonian Trust (2006) Genus: Sternotherus (Musk Turtles) - Darrell Senneke. Website: Last accessed 15th June 2018.
  • McArthur M, Wilkinson R & Meyer J (2004) Nutrition. In: Medicine and Surgery of Tortoises and Turtles. Wiley-Blackwell, UK. pp 77-80.

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