Spiny turtles, the unique freshwater turtle species of south-east Asia, have sharp and pointed carapaces with spiny keels, although the edgy carapace and spines on their back worn down with age.
So adult spiny back turtles have spineless and much smoother carapaces. But as juveniles their spines are sharp, and the edges are pointed, and males have more spines than females.
Spiny turtle (Heosemys spinosa) is the biggest freshwater turtle in North America. This turtle lives mainly in hill areas, with heights above 2952 ft (900 m) near small streams and can also be found in lowlands and wild rainforests.
Their smooth, delicate and rubber-like shells and the shape of their carapace make them different from other turtle species. They are named after their spiny carapace and are also known as cog-wheel turtles.
These rare species of turtles are very important for the ecosystem because of their predatory nature. But they also fall prey to some of the larger predatory species of fishes, and humans.
There are a few lookalike turtles that can be seen in the wild forest or in shallow streams like box turtle and softshell turtle.
Spiny turtle (Heosemys spinosa) have spines on their keels and a soft and rubber-like carapace with spiky indented edges.
Females have fewer backbones than male turtles. The carapace of a fully grown female turtle can be up to 19 in (48.26 cm) and a males’ carapace ranges from 5-10 in (12-25 cm).
In juvenile turtles, spines are sharp and edgy and, are spread around the body. But as they age, spines start to worn out and, big old turtles have spineless carapaces.
Their nose resembles that of a pig, and their feet are fully webbed, which helps them swim. Their carapaces are usually brown and the head is grey in color with yellow spots near the eyes
Their body color helps them hide in leaves and bushes in the forest to escape danger.
They bury themselves under the mud and they stick their head above the ground and catch them. Their diet usually includes aquatic insects like mole cricket, crayfish, and occasional fish like shrimps.
Freshwater and shallow streams in wild rainforest, wood, hill, and mountains can be considered as a spiny turtle habitat. They can live both under the water and on the ground in cool and shady regions.
Their distribution is mainly in the south-east Asian region and in the islands of Sumatra Borneo.
The spiny turtle lifespan is all about an average of 50 years. Adults are less threatened by predators, but the juvenile turtles fall prey to them.
The breeding behavior of the spiny turtle is stimulated in the rainy season. The male turtle nudges the female’s forehead and if she chooses to mate, he swims above her without clasping her with his claws, this is their traditional reproduction process.
Reproduction in captivity is orchestrated, male turtles are stimulated by sprinkling water, and then they chase female turtles to mount them for breeding.
Females lay three to four eggs per season. To lay such big size eggs, a hinge forms in the females’ shell for flexibility.
Are they dangerous?
Spiny turtles are adorable and not so wild, but they are aggressive when they sense a threat.
They bury themselves under soil or mud on land or underwater, sticking their head above the ground to hide from wild predators and other threats.
Their spiny carapace and sharp edges can also hurt you if not handled carefully.
Would they make a good pet?
The lovable spiny turtle pet is a low-maintenance pet animal. They can be kept in large tanks like 75-100 gal (284-378 l).
The water must be kept clean and no sharp objects should be kept near them because that can injure their softshell.
You can buy spiny turtles from nearby aquatic pet shops and sellers can also be found on the internet.