Common musk turtle
Sternotherus odoratus a species of the Kinosternidae family.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Sauropsida
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Superfamily: Kinosternoidea
Family: Kinosternidae
Agassiz, 1857[1]


  • Cinosternoidae - Agassiz 1857
  • Kinosterna - Gray 1869
  • Kinosternidae - Hay 1892

The Kinosternidae are a family of mostly small turtles that includes the mud turtles and musk turtles. The family contains 25 species within four genera, but taxonomic reclassification is an ongoing process, so many sources vary on the exact numbers of species and subspecies. They inhabit slow-moving bodies of water, often with soft, muddy bottoms and abundant vegetation.


Most kinosternids are small turtles, 10–15 cm (3.9–5.9 in) in carapace length. The highly domed carapace has a distinct keel down its center. The genus Staurotypus gets much larger, to 30 cm (12 in). Females are generally larger than males, but males have much longer tails. Kinosternids can be black, brown, green, or yellowish in color. Most species do not have shell markings, but some species have radiating black markings on each carapace scute. Some species have distinctive yellow striping along the sides of the head and neck.

The musk turtles are so named because they are capable of releasing a foul-smelling musk from glands under the rear of their shells when disturbed. They are native to North America and South America.


All members of the family are carnivorous, feeding on crustaceans, aquatic insects, mollusks, annelids, amphibians, small fish, and sometimes carrion.


Kinosternids lay about four hard-shelled eggs during the late spring and early summer. After hatching, some species overwinter in the subterranean nest, emerging the following spring. Some adults also spend the winter on land, constructing a burrow with a small air hole used on warm days.

Kinosternids contain the only species of turtle known, or at least suspected, to exhibit parental care. Studies of the yellow mud turtle in Nebraska, USA, suggest females sometimes stay with the nest and may urinate on the eggs long after laying, to either keep them moist or to protect them from snake predation (by making them less palatable).



Additional images

Red-cheeked mud turtle, Kinosternon scorpioides cruentatum 
Mississippi mud turtle, Kinosternon subrubrum hippocrepis 
Lake Chapala Mud Turtle, Kinosternon hirtipes chapalaense 
Razorback musk turtle, Sternotherus carinatus 
Striped mud turtle, Kinosternon baurii 


  1. 1 2 3 Rhodin 2011, pp. 000.175-000.178
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