Striped-Necked Musk Turtle, Sternotherus minor

The Striped-necked Musk Turtle is found east of the Tennessee River (western middle Tennessee portion) with the exception of the Cumberland River drainage.   The Stripe-necked Musk Turtle (S. m. peltifer) is the only subspecies of Loggerhead Musk Turtle that occurs in Tennessee.

Description: A small aquatic turtle (3.0 to 4.0 inches in length) with keeled (prominent in juveniles), tan to brown carapace (upper shell) sprinkled with dark spots.   

The large head is light brown with dark spots and has dark, prominent stripes along sides of head and neck.   

Two barbels (fleshy nodules) hang down from the chin.   The pink or yellow plastron (lower shell) is small with only 1 hinge.   Males have a much larger head and females have a very short tail.

Similar Species: Eastern Musk Turtle has light-colored stripes on the side of the head and barbels on chin plus neck.

Habitat: Occurs in creeks, springs, ponds, rivers, and wetlands. Commonly found around snags and fallen trees over a soft substrate.

Diet: Feeds primarily on snails and mussels; also insects, crayfish, and some vegetation.

Breeding information: Adults mate in spring resulting in female egg laying through the summer.

Females lay several clutches of 2-3 hard-shelled eggs in nests dugout of loose organic material near streams. The young hatch out after 8-16 weeks.

Status in Tennessee: Appears to be common in suitable habitat in the Tennessee River drainages. Vulnerable to water pollution and siltation from soil runoff.

Fun Facts:

  • When submerged in water Stripe-necked Musk Turtles walk along the bottom in search of food. They can remain underwater for a long time due to its ability to absorb oxygen from the water through the lining of its mouth and throat.

Best places to see in Tennessee: Large creeks or oxbows in the Tennessee River drainages.

Conant, R. and Collins, J. 1998. Peterson Field Guides: Reptiles and Amphibians (Eastern/Central North America). Houghton Mifflin Company, New York. 616pp.

Jensen, J. B., Camp C. D., Gibbons, W., and Elliot, M. J. 2008. Amphibians and Reptiles of Georgia, University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA. 575pp.

Striped-necked Musk Turtle
Striped-necked Musk Turtle Range Map