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Flattened Musk Turtle (Sternotherus Depressus)

The flattened musk turtle is a critically endangered species. This makes them difficult to find even though they are easy to care for. Because of their endangered status, be sure to acquire them from reputable breeders only.

Flattened Musk Turtle Facts and Information

The scientific classification of this turtle is Sternotherus depressus. The flattened musk turtle belongs to the genus Sternotherus commonly known as the musk turtle.

This genus contains other musk turtles such as the common musk turtle, the loggerhead musk turtle, and two others. Musk and mud turtles (the family Kinosternidae which the flattened musk turtle belongs to) are primarily carnivorous and are endemic to the Americas.

The natural habitat of this species is the drainage area of the Black Warrior River in Alabama. Because of the limited and restricted nature of this turtle’s population, it is not advisable to capture wild Sternotherus depressus.

This kinosternid is small in size measuring only 3 to 4 inches in straight carapace length. As you can see from both the binomial name and the common name, this turtle is not high domed. The carapace of this species is flatter and more depressed than that of other musk turtles.

The most noticeable characteristic of the Sternotherus depressus is its flattened nature, which makes it appear to be trampled on. The carapace of this turtle is dark brown to yellowish brown with black speckles.

The plastron (underside) is yellowish brown in color. The body is brown in color with the head being more olive colored with dark speckles.

Like many endangered turtles, the exact lifespan of this turtle is not well documented. They are however long-living and have been known to live up to 50 years.

Flattened Musk Turtle Diet

Sternotherus_depressus (flattened musk turtle)

As with other kinosternids, the Sternotherus depressus is carnivorous. In the wild, they feed almost exclusively on invertebrates such as mussels, clams, and mollusks, which they crush with their powerful jaws.

Smaller juveniles usually feed on aquatic insects. To be specific, the flattened musk turtles are primarily molluscivora since they feed mostly on mollusks.

The flattened musk turtles eat commercial aquatic turtle foods and treats such as Tetra ReptoMin Floating Food Sticks, and Omega One Natural Protein Formula.

This can be complement with small snails, insects and even aquatic plants (non-toxic). You should also supplement their diet with calcium and vitamins. This will ensure they get all the needed nutrients to thrive.

Flattened musk turtles should be fed about 2 to 3 time a week, while juveniles should be fed every other day or daily. You should feed them as much as they can eat in a few seconds.

When in doubt, you should contact your local reputable breeder or pet shop for further information.

Flattened Musk Turtle Habitat

Flattened Musk Turtle

The Sternotherus depressus population doesn’t have a large geographic range and are restricted to a single river system. As with other musk turtles, this turtle prefers clear streams.

They can also be found in lakes and small rivers. They prefer water bodies with a rocky or sandy bottom. This information needs to be taken into account when constructing a habitat for these little turtles.

The aquatic set up of this turtle needs to be exact. Flattened musk turtles should be kept in an aquatic environment. A turtle tank that can hold 40 gallons of water should suffice for the flattened musk turtles.

The water depth needs to be at least 8 to 12 inches for adults and 4 inches for hatchlings. The tank needs to be long and width enough to allow the turtle to swim comfortably.

When decorating the tank, do so sparsely. It is necessary to prove several retreats and hiding spots. This will ensure the turtle isn’t stressed.

Adequate hiding spots play an important role in ensuring your turtle lives comfortably, as stressed turtles tend to eat less and die. Ensure that the hiding stops aren’t too tight so the turtle can get caught in them.

To ensure the water in the turtle tank is clear and clean, you need a filtration system. This includes a pump and a filter.

TetraFauna Viqaquarium, All-In-One Terrarium And aquarium, Ideal For Aquatic Reptiles And Amphibians

Basking is an important activity that almost all turtles do. Basking helps to dry out their carapaces and regulates their body temperature.

Slates of rock and driftwood affixed to one end of the tank can serve as basking areas. Other options include turtle ramps such as the OASIS Turtle Ramp.

The temperature of the water needs to be between 73 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature of the basking spot needs to be 90 degrees Fahrenheit. The ambient air temperature should be in the 80s.

As with turtles housed in an aquarium, you need to provide UVB lighting. This will ensure that the turtle gets the needed UVB rays. We have done an in depth review of the best UVB lights for turtles which you can check out for more.

Flattened Musk Turtle Breeding

Little is known about their reproductive habits in the wild. In captivity, they are difficult to breed. Breeding has been done with limited and infrequent success.

Female flattened musk turtles build shallow nests near water bodies where they inhabit. They usually lay just two eggs per clutch. Incubation takes between 45 to 122 days. It takes between four to six years for males to reach maturity. It takes females longer to reach maturity – six to eight years.

Flattened Musk Turtle Predation

Little is known about the predators of the flattened musk turtle.

Flattened Musk Turtle Endangerment

The Sternotherus depressus is critically endangered and could go extinct in the wild especially since this species’ population is falling. The main threat to their survival is the destruction of their habitat and environmental degradation specifically siltation and erosion.

This is as the result of strip coal mining and construction. Runoff from agriculture and forestry also leads to siltation problem.

To help protect this turtle from extinction, they are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.


Although the flattened musk turtles are quite easy to care for and are peculiar looking turtles, they are difficult to find because of their engendered status. When acquiring this turtle make sure you are doing so legally since they are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

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