How To Tell The Gender Of A Softshell Turtle?

How To Tell The Gender Of A Softshell Turtle

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

Knowing the gender of your softshell turtle will always give you advantages. For example, while breeding the turtles or housing multiple turtles in the same tank, you need to check the gender of the pet turtle first. But the question is, how to tell the gender of a softshell turtle.

The easiest way to determine the gender of a softshell turtle is to measure its size. Unlike many other turtle species, female softshell turtles are larger than males of the same age. Additionally, males have longer tails compared to females.

If you are looking for how to identify the gender of a softshell turtle, then this is the article you can start with. Here I will share every detail possible and hopefully, at the end of this article, you will be able to determine the gender of your softshell turtle.

How To Determine The Gender Of A Softshell Turtle?

Determining the gender of a softshell turtle is really easy. It is because unlike many other turtles, this species exhibit sex dimorphism. In more simple terms, the physical appearance of a softshell turtle is enough for telling its gender.

While determining the gender of a softshell turtle, you need to consider some factors. Such as:

  1. Size
  2. Tail
  3. Hind claws
  4. Weight
  5. Reproductive maturity
  6. Physical appearance

Let’s discuss these factors one by one.

turtle gender identification

female softshell turtles are larger than the males

The easiest way to determine a softshell turtle’s gender is to measure its size. Unlike many other turtle species, the same-aged female softshell turtles are larger than the male ones. So, you can compare the turtle’s size with another one of the same age and species.

Here is a chart that indicates the size comparison of adult male and female softshell turtles:

Softshell Turtle SpeciesAverage Size Of An Adult Male Softshell TurtleAverage Size Of An Adult Female Softshell Turtle
Florida softshell turtle6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters)8 to 25 inches (20 to 61 centimeters)
Chinese softshell turtle6 to 11 inches (15 to 28 centimeters)8 to 13 inches (20 to 33 centimeters)
Spiny softshell turtle5 to 9.5 inches (12.7 to 24 centimeters)6.5 to 18 inches (17 to 46 centimeters)
Euphates softshell turtle26 inches or 67 centimeters26 inches or 67 centimeters
Smooth softshell turtle5 to 11 inches (12.7 to 28 centimeters)6.5 to 14 inches (16.5 to 36 centimeters)
Asiatic softshell turtle27.6 to 31.5 (70 to 80 centimeters)27.6 to 31.5 (70 to 80 centimeters)
Yangtze giant softshell turtle28 to 39 inches (71 to 99 centimeters)28 to 39 inches (71 to 99 centimeters)
Indian softshell turtle37 inches or 94 centimeters37 inches or 94 centimeters
Malayan softshell turtle10 inches or 25 centimeters13.7 inches or 35 centimeters
Asian giant softshell turtle27.5 to 39 inches (70 to 100 centimeters)27.5 to 39 inches (70 to 100 centimeters)
Black softshell turtle35.5 inches or 90 centimeters35.5 inches or 90 centimeters
Leith’s softshell turtle28 to 39 inches (72 to 100 centimeters)28 to 39 inches (72 to 100 centimeters)
African softshell turtle33.5 to 37.5 (85 to 95 centimeters)33.5 to 37.5 (85 to 95 centimeters)

From the chart, you can see that the male softshell turtles are about half the size of the female ones. Remember, this method is only possible if you have multiple softshell turtles of the same age. If you have only one turtle, you can follow the other methods to determine the gender of your softshell turtle.

Click here to get more information on a softshell turtle’s size and growth factors.

tails of the female softshell turtles are thin and short

male vs female softshell turtle tail

There is a distinctive difference in the tail of a male and female softshell turtle. If you observe carefully, you will notice that the tails of the female softshell turtles are thin and short. In spite of having a larger size, the female tails do not exceed much further than the edge of their upper shells.

On the other hand, the tails of the male softshell turtles are much larger than the female ones. Their tails are thick, wide, and lengthy. The male tails can reach further than the upper shells.

female softshell turtles have longer hind claws

Hind claws of a softshell turtle indicate the back claws. There is a difference in size of the hind claws of the male and female. Generally, the female softshell turtles have longer hind claws than the male ones.

The larger hind claws benefit the female turtles in many ways. For example, a gravid turtle digs a hole to lay eggs using her hind claws. On the other hand, the male softshell turtles use their claws while mating.

female softshell turtles Weigh more

As the female softshell turtles are bigger than male ones, it is obvious that they will weigh more too. You can also determine the gender of a softshell turtle from its weight.

But this is not an accurate indicator. Why? It is because the weight of a softshell turtle can vary depending on its physical health and surroundings. A female softshell turtle can weigh less than the same age male softshell turtle if she is suffering from any medical condition.

Here is a chart that shows the weight difference between the male and female softshell turtles:

Softshell Turtle SpeciesWeight Of A Male Softshell TurteWeight Of A Female Softshell Turtle
Spiny softshell turtle8 to 10 kgs ( 18 to 22 lbs)12 to 15 kg (26.5 to 33 lbs)
Florida softshell turtle3 kg or more (6.6 lb+) 6 to 44 kg (13 to 97 lbs)
Indian narrow headed softshell turtle17 to 26 kg (37 to 58 lbs)14 to 57 kg (30 to 125 lbs)

From the chart, you can see that the male softshell turtles weigh almost ⅔ of the female ones. Check this article to know the weight of different softshell turtle species.

spiny softshell turtle care

Difference At Reproductive Maturity Age

The male and female softshell turtles reach their reproductive maturity at different ages, sizes, and weights. For example, a female smooth softshell turtle becomes sexually mature in the 9th year. While the male smooth softshell turtle gains reproductive maturity at the age of 4.

Similarly, the male Florida softshell turtles become sexually active when their plastron gets around 6 inches. On the other hand, the female Florida softshell turtles reach this stage when their plastron length becomes around 8 inches.

The female spiny softshell turtles attain reproductive maturity at the age of 12. Their shell length will be around 7 to 8 inches at that age. For the male Spiny softshell turtles, the stage comes to a lot sooner, when their shell is around 4 inches.

The male Black rayed softshell turtles and the Asiatic softshell turtles can be involved in coitus at the age of 4 to 5. For the female ones, this age is 8 to 10 years.

Male Softshell Turtles Have A Lighter Colored Shell

If you look closely, you will notice that there is a slight color difference between the male and female softshell turtles. The shell color of the male softshell turtles is light. On the other hand, the shell color of the female softshell turtles is dark and it gets darker with age.

Also, there is a slightly noticeable pattern difference between male and female softshell turtles. The males have rings on their shells, while the female softshell turtles have dark, grey blotching, or mottling on their shells.

For example, the male Spiny softshell turtles have juvenile markings. On the other hand, the markings of the female spiny softshell turtles become blotchy grey, olive, or brown with growing age.

There is another way to find out if the softshell turtle is male or female. You need to rub the pet turtle’s shell. Usually, the male softshell turtles’ shells have a sandpaper-like roughness. The males also have soft ridges on the front edges of the shell. However, in the case of the female softshell turtles, they have smooth shells.

Things You Need To Remember While Determining The Gender

Now you know the points of how to identify the gender of a softshell turtle. Your identification will be a lot easier if you follow some tips. For example:

  1. Do not observe or compare only one factor. Try to check as many factors as you can for accuracy.
  2. If you are following the size method, make sure you have more than one turtle of the same age and same species.
  3. Determining the gender of a hatchling can be a little tough and there is a chance that your conclusion is wrong. So, wait till the softshell turtle becomes young to identify its gender.

Incubation Temperature And Softshell Turtle’s Gender

In many turtles, you have seen that the incubation temperature of the eggs decides their genders. But this is not the same for the softshell turtles. The experts believe that the clutch of eggs has a 50/50 mix. This means there will be almost equal numbers of male and female softshell turtles in each batch of eggs.

Even though this theory is not proved yet, most of the experts support this logic. Check this article to learn more about a softshell turtle’s egg care.

Frequently Asked Questions

The smooth softshell turtle (Apalone mutica) and the spiny softshell turtle (Apalone spinifera) are two closely related species of softshell turtles.

One of the main differences is that the spiny softshell turtle has a rough carapace with spines along the front edge, while the smooth softshell turtle lacks such spines. Additionally, the smooth softshell turtle may have a more elongated snout compared to the spiny softshell turtle.

The spiny softshell turtle has a rounder, more oval-shaped carapace compared to the smoother, more elongated carapace of the smooth softshell turtle.

Conclusion

Identifying the gender of a softshell turtle is really easy if you follow the information correctly. You can do it even as a beginner. You can also seek the help of a professional in determining the gender of your pet softshell turtle.

About Author

Muntaseer Rahman started keeping pet turtles back in 2013. He also owns the largest Turtle & Tortoise Facebook community in Bangladesh. These days he is mostly active on Facebook.

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