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Apalone ferox

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
ANIMALIA CHORDATA REPTILIA TESTUDINES TRIONYCHIDAE

Scientific Name: Apalone ferox
Species Authority: (Schneider, 1783)
Common Name(s):
English Florida Softshell Turtle
Synonym(s):
Testudo ferox Schneider, 1783

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2013
Date Assessed: 2010-08-01
Assessor(s): van Dijk, P.P.
Reviewer(s): Horne, B.D., Mittermeier, R.A., Philippen, H.-D., Quinn, H.R., Rhodin, A.G.J., Shaffer, H.B. & Vogt, R.C
Justification:
Apalone ferox is listed as Least Concern because it ranges across a substantial area, it is common to very common in much of its range, substantial populations are safeguarded in effective protected areas, and while exploitation of the species is widespread and has at times and places been intensive, adequate regulations are in place and the species is resilient to recover within two decades.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: Apalone ferox occurs from southern South Carolina (vicinity of Charleston) through eastern and southern Georgia, southeastern Alabama and essentially all of Florida (Iverson 1992, Meylan and Moler 2006).
Countries:
Native:
United States (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina)
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:

Apalone ferox is considered common to very common throughout most of Florida (Meylan and Moler 2006). Localized population declines have been attributed to intensive collection, but only partial quantitative population estimates or trend data are available. Indications are that a depleted population requires about 20 years to recover (Meylan and Moler 2006).

Population structure data are limited to some casual observations (Meylan and Moler 2006).

Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:

Apalone ferox inhabits a wide variety of permanent freshwater bodies, as well as some occurrence in ephemeral waterbodies and brackish situations. Shallow vegetated lake and marsh areas with deeper canals and at least localized sandy banks represent optimal habitat (Meylan and Moler 2006).  

Apalone ferox are primarily carnivorous, feeding on snails, insects, fish, crayfish, and occasionally clams and tetrapod vertebrates; part of this may represent scavenging.

Significant nest predators include foxes, raccoons, skunks and fish crows, while hatchlings and juveniles may be consumed by raptors and various other predators. Adults are very occasionally taken by alligators (Meylan and Moler 2006).

Female A. ferox can reach over 70 cm carapace length (CL) and well over 20 kg (record 43.5 kg - Pritchard 2001).

Females reach sexual maturity between 25 and 40 cm CL, at an unknown age. Average size of nesting females in a Pinellas Co. population was 50 cm CL and 10.3 kg (Heinrich and Boykin, in Meylan and Moler 2006)

Males reach sexual maturity between 15 and 21 cm CL, at about 0.7 kg, at an unknown age (Meylan and Moler 2006).

Most but not all females reproduce annually, while some females may produce up to seven clutches per year (Iverson and Moler 1997). Clutch size is correlated to female size, averaging 18 to 39 eggs per clutch, with the very largest females producing over 225 eggs per year. Hatchlings measure on average 41 mm CL (range 36-44 mm) at a weight of 9.7 (range 8-11) g (Meylan and Moler 2006).

Systems: Terrestrial; Freshwater

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade:

Apalone ferox was the most intensively collected turtle species in Florida up to 2009; Meylan and Moler (2006) describe details of the fishery, amounting to a minimum of 7,500 adults annually.

Ranching of the species, specifically egg collection from confined wild-caught animals, produces substantial quantities of hatchlings for the global pet trade and for rearing facilities in China; annual exports amounted to well over 100,000 in recent years (LEMIS database of recorded exports from USA, combining wild-collected, ranched and farmed sources: 1999: 16,917 individuals; 2000: 17,675; 2001: 18,040; 2002: 22,903; 2003: 23,001; 2004: 95,958; 2005: 84,944; 2006: 149,833; 2007: 161,826; 2008: 315,649)

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s):

Commercial take of adult softshells, either as a targeted fishery or as bycatch in seine and trotline fisheries, has been substantial and has been implied as the cause of localized declines (review by Meylan and Moler 2006).

Some females are killed when crossing roads to or from nesting sites, and natural predation levels may have increased as predator populations are subsidized by human activities, but the overall impact or significance of these trends have not been evaluated.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

In Alabama, commercial and personal take is limited to a daily bag limit of 10 turtles, and softshells can only be taken if over 12” CL. Florida closed its commercial fishery for the species in 2009. Take of the species in Georgia remains unregulated. In South Carolina Apalone ferox is considered a Species of Concern.

Substantial populations are protected in the Everglades and other protected areas; habitat characteristics also make some areas unsuitable to commercial fisheries, providing effective refugia. Habitat modification, particularly the construction of drainage canals, may favour individuals and populations locally.


Citation: van Dijk, P.P. 2013. Apalone ferox. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 02 August 2014.
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