Common Musk Turtle, Sternotherus odoratus

Common Musk Turtle

Sternotherus odoratus

Excerpted from: Animal Diversity

Common Musk Turtle
Sternotherus odoratus
Lifespan 69 years
Length 3 to 5 inches
Color Dark brown or black shells that may be streaked or mottled and commonly accumulates green algae.
Gestation Period 150 days
Clutch Size 1 to 9 eggs
Diet Small amounts of plants, mollusks, small fish, insects, and even carrion.


The Common Musk Turtle, also known as the Stinkpot Turtle, is a relatively small turtle with an average length of 3 to 5 inches. The carapace is brown or black, and has a smooth, oval shape with a high dome. When these turtles are hatchlings, the carapace is usually black and rough. The skin is a dark-olive to black color, and there are 2 prominent yellow lines that run from the snout to the neck, one on either side of the eye.

For both the male and female, there are barbels located on the chin and the underside of their rather long neck. The male differs from the female in that he has a larger head, a long and stout tail with a spine, and areas of tilted scales on the insides of the rear legs. Males also have broad areas of skin showing between plastral scutes, whereas females have very small areas of skin in these spaces.


In the wild Common Musk Turtles are estimated to live up to 69 years.


The most prominent behavior of the common musk turtle is its defensive tactic. When disturbed, this turtle will quickly release a foul-smelling liquid from its musk glands. This kind of defense earned the musk turtle the nickname of "stinkpot". Also, the male is particularly aggressive and will not think twice about biting. Another unique behavior the nocturnal common musk turtle exhibits while foraging is that they walk on the bottom of the stream or pond instead of swimming like other turtles.


The Common Musk Turtle is somewhat of a food generalist, as it is known to eat small amounts of plants, mollusks, small fish, insects, and even carrion. Foraging on the muddy bottom of streams or ponds is the chief way of collecting food.

Further Reading:

 Beavers — Nature's Hydrologist, Part 2
 Garter Snakes — The Gardener's Friend
 Wisconsin Native Salamanders
 Goundhog or Woochuck: All The Facts
 Voles, Both The Good and The Bad

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