Added September 14 2003. Updated 6 August 2009 with links to Claudius and Staurotypus.


Mud and Musk Turtles

This is a family of freshwater turtles based entirely in the New World, being particular well represented in Central America but being found northwards as far as the Great Lakes and southwards to Uruguay and N Argentina. The Kinosterninae contains a number of popular terrarium subjects, but the Staurotypinae are not well represented in captivity. Some authorities consider the latter to be a separate family: the three species therein are certainly considerably larger than those of the Kinosterninae, and quite aggressive.

Wermuth in Grzimek gives the following as characteristics of the family:

Kinosternids usually live on the bottom of quiet bodies of fresh water, where they mainly feed on small animals and carrion. The females often lay their eggs in rotting wood or among decaying plants. In colder regions the young may overwinter in the egg.

Müller suggests that with the exception of Sternotherus, the kinosternids are not terribly sociable in captivity, and that they should either be kept singly or in very large enclosures with plenty of hiding places.

Subfamily Kinosterninae

Genus Common Name No. of species Location Notes
Kinosternon Mud Turtles  19 Mainly Mexico but also USA, Central America and S America as far as Argentina  
Sternotherus Musk Turtles  4 Mainly USA, also Canada and Mexico  

Subfamily Staurotypinae

Genus Common Name No. of species Location Notes
Claudius Narrow- Bridged Musk Turtles  1 Mexico, N Guatemala, Belize  
Staurotypus Giant Musk Turtles  2 Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Belize, Honduras  


Turtles and Tortoises of the World, David Alderton, Blandford, London 1999.

Animal Life Encyclopedia Volume 6: Reptiles, Grzimek,1975.

Schildkröten, Gerhard Müller, Eugen Ullmer, Stuttgart 1995.

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