Spiny Turtle: 17 Facts You Won't Believe!

Spiny turtle facts include that spiny turtle which lives in wild and shallow areas has a brown soft and smooth shell

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

Fact File

What do they prey on?

Aquatic insects, crayfish

What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

25 lb (11 kg)

How long are they?

Female: 7-19 in (18-48 cm)

Male: 5-10 in (13-25 cm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Brown and grey

Skin Type


What are their main threats?


What is their conservation status?


Where you'll find them

Hill, shallow streams


Thailand, Sumatra Borneo, small Indonesian islands, south-east Asian countries





Scientific Name

Heosemys spinosa





Spiny Turtle Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a spiny turtle?

It is a southeast Asian freshwater turtle, which belongs to the softshell turtle species (spiny turtle heosemys spinosa). They are mainly carnivores having long necks and their flat shape makes them fast swimmers. They also have webbed feet which make them hydrodynamically efficient.

What class of animal does a spiny turtle belong to?

The spiny turtle belongs to the class of reptiles. They are one of the species of largest freshwater softshell turtles of North America. Spiny turtle heosemys spinosa is a diurnal species, so they hunt for food and remain active during day time. They are semi-aquatic animals and their body color helps them to camouflage into leaves in forest wild habitats to escape from danger.

How many spiny turtles are there in the world?

There are not many spiny turtles left in the world. They are listed as endangered species. The remaining species can be found in Asian countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, small Indonesian islands and Brunei.

Where does a spiny turtle live?

These turtles are mainly found in the regions of Brunei, Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand and in the islands of Sumatra Borneo and some small Indonesian islands. In the forest, they can camouflage into leaves and can hide under soil and mud to defend themselves and also as a trick to hunting on their prey.

What is a spiny turtle's habitat?

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.

Who do spiny turtles live with?

Spiny turtles live on their own in the wild other than during the mating season. They are mainly active during the day when they search for food. They can live underwater with their pharyngeal lining and can also live on the ground. They can also reside in the zoo if properly taken care of. As pets, they are not very popular.

How long does a spiny turtle live?

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.

How do they reproduce?

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.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of the spiny turtles is Endangered as declared by the IUCN species due to the destruction of their habitat and chemical pollution.

Spiny Turtle Fun Facts

What do spiny turtles look like?

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.

The shells of spiny turtles are soft and edges are spiny and brown

How cute are they?

Spiny turtles are pretty creatures with their small head and big shell. But you should be careful of their backbone and the distribution of sharp edges of their shell.

How do they communicate?

The spiny turtle is a diurnal animal thus is very active during the day. They sense their prey through their vision, and while mating, their response is tactile simulation. Males bump on females' heads, and if chosen to mate, they swim above the female without grasping them with claws.

How big is a spiny turtle?

The spiny turtle size can be around 7-19 in (18-48 cm) and can weigh up to 25 lb (11 kg). They are twice as bigger as box turtles and map turtles.

How fast can a spiny turtle move?

Turtles are known to be slow animals, but this species when becomes agitated can move fast both inland and in water, inland their speed as observed is 15 mph (24 kph).

How much does a spiny turtle weigh?

Spiny turtles can weigh up to 25 lb (11 kg). Females are usually heavier than male turtles.

What are the male and female names of the species?

Spiny turtles also have various names like spiny back turtle or spiny softshell turtle but there is no specific name for their male and female species. They are known as male spiny turtle and female spiny turtle.

What would you call a baby spiny turtle?

There is no specific name for baby spiny turtles. They are simply called baby spiny turtles.

What do they eat?

The spiny turtle diet contains anything that fits in their mouth. They are omnivorous creatures and can both survive on fruits and small water organisms. 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.

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.

Did you know...

Spiny turtles are endangered because of the destruction of their habitat.

Why is the spiny turtle endangered?

The spiny turtle species are endangered because their habitats are being destroyed due to chemical pollution.

Having your own spiny turtle

Spiny turtles can be bought from the nearest aquatic pet shops and can cost from $28 - $250. They have to keep in shallow water and moist substrate.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these bog turtle facts or Florida softshell turtle fun facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one of our free printable spiny turtle coloring pages.



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