Apalone ferox 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Reptilia Testudines Trionychidae

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

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2011
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
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.
Previously published Red List assessments:

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 occurrence:
United States (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina)
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


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).

Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:

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.

Errata [top]

Errata reason: An errata assessment is required to generate a revised PDF without the range map which had been included in error; no range map was available when this assessment was originally published.

Classifications [top]

1. Forest -> 1.7. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Mangrove Vegetation Above High Tide Level
1. Forest -> 1.8. Forest - Subtropical/Tropical Swamp
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.1. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Rivers/Streams/Creeks (includes waterfalls)
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.3. Wetlands (inland) - Shrub Dominated Wetlands
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.4. Wetlands (inland) - Bogs, Marshes, Swamps, Fens, Peatlands
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.5. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Freshwater Lakes (over 8ha)
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.6. Wetlands (inland) - Seasonal/Intermittent Freshwater Lakes (over 8ha)
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.7. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Freshwater Marshes/Pools (under 8ha)
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.8. Wetlands (inland) - Seasonal/Intermittent Freshwater Marshes/Pools (under 8ha)
5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.9. Wetlands (inland) - Freshwater Springs and Oases
suitability:Suitable  major importance:No
13. Marine Coastal/Supratidal -> 13.4. Marine Coastal/Supratidal - Coastal Brackish/Saline Lagoons/Marine Lakes
13. Marine Coastal/Supratidal -> 13.5. Marine Coastal/Supratidal - Coastal Freshwater Lakes
1. Land/water protection -> 1.1. Site/area protection
2. Land/water management -> 2.2. Invasive/problematic species control
3. Species management -> 3.1. Species management -> 3.1.2. Trade management
4. Education & awareness -> 4.3. Awareness & communications
5. Law & policy -> 5.1. Legislation -> 5.1.3. Sub-national level
5. Law & policy -> 5.2. Policies and regulations

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Action Recovery plan:No
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:No
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
  Successfully reintroduced or introduced beningly:No
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:No
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:No
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:No
4. Transportation & service corridors -> 4.1. Roads & railroads
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.1. Ecosystem conversion
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.1. Intentional use: (subsistence/small scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.2. Intentional use: (large scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.5. Persecution/control
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
1. Research -> 1.6. Actions
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends
3. Monitoring -> 3.2. Harvest level trends

Bibliography [top]

IUCN. 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2011.1). Available at: http://www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 30 June 2017).

IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-1. Available at: www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 30 June 2016).

Iverson, J.B. 1992. A Revised Checklist with Distribution Maps of the Turtles of the World. Privately published, Richmond, Indiana.

Iverson, J.B. and Moler, P.E. 1997. The female reproductive cycle of the Florida softshell turtle (Apalone ferox). Journal of Herpetology 31: 399-409.

Meylan, P.A. and Moler, P.E. 2006. Apalone ferox - Florida Softshell Turtle. In: P.A. Meylan (ed.), Biology and Conservation of Florida Turtles, pp. 160-168. Chelonian Research Foundation, Lunenburg, MA.

Pritchard, P.C.H. 2001. Observations on Body Size, Sympatry, and Niche Divergence in Softshell Turtles (Trionychidae). Chelonian Conservation and Biology 4(1): 5-27.

Citation: van Dijk, P.P. 2011. Apalone ferox. In: (errata version published in 2016) The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2011: e.T165597A97397831. . Downloaded on 24 September 2017.
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