Photo Credit: By Krishna Kumar Mishra [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
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Softshell turtles, such as this Chitra indica, have shells that lack the horny scales usually associated with turtles and tortoises. Sometimes called pancake turtles, these animals instead have leathery skin over a bony plate in the center of their backs.
Generally, softshells are large, carnivorous, freshwater turtles with large jaws, flat bodies, and long necks, who tend to remain submerged in mud or sand except to hunt and lay eggs. The increased flexibility that comes with not having a hard shell affords a softshell better hunting opportunities and quicker movement.
There are 30 species of softshell turtles that make up the Trionychidae family, meaning they comprise roughly a tenth of all members of the Testudines order.
Learn more about turtles with these resources from Science NetLinks and other educational partners:
- 2010 BioBlitz BobCast 3: Reef Trip (K-12)
- Coral Reef Adventure Fun Zone (3-8)
- World Turtle Day (calendar item)
- We Don't Know: Magnetoreception (Science YouTube video)