CaliforniaHerps.com

A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Desert Mud Turtle -
Kinosternon sonoriense sonoriense

LeConte, 1854

(= Sonora Mud Turtle)
Click on a picture for a larger view



Sonoran Mud Turtle California Range Map
Historic locations: Red




observation link



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Formerly present, now apparently extinct in California.

Sonoran Mud Turtle Sonoran Mud Turtle Sonoran Mud Turtle
  Adult, Pima County, Arizona  
Sonoran Mud Turtle Sonoran Mud Turtle Sonoran Mud Turtle
Adult, Pima County, Arizona Juvenile, Santa Cruz County, Arizona
Sonoran Mud Turtle Sonoran Mud Turtle Sonoran Mud Turtle
Juvenile, Santa Cruz County, Arizona
Sonoran Mud Turtle Sonoran Mud Turtle Sonoran Mud Turtle
Adult, Santa Cruz County, Arizona, © Dick Bartlett Adult, Santa Cruz County, Arizona
© 2004 William Flaxington
   
Habitat
Sonoran Mud Turtle Habitat Sonoran Mud Turtle Habitat
Sonoran Mud Turtle Habitat
Former habitat, next to Colorado River near Palo Verde, Imperial County
Former habitat, next to Colorado River near Laguna Dam, Imperial County Former habitat, next to Colorado
River near Ft. Mojave

More pictures of habitat in Arizona


Short Video
 
Sonoran Mud Turtle
 
A Desert Mud Turtle, found wandering overland next to a dry creek in the mountains outside of Tucson Arizona, slowly pokes its head out of its shell and looks around for several minutes before quickly returning back into the shell. It never did come out, and was left to crawl back to wherever it was going.
Description
 
Size
3 1/8 - 6 1/2 inches in shell length (7.9 - 16.5 cm) (Stebbins 2003)

Appearance

A dark, medium-sized turtle with a smooth and elongated carapace.
1 or 3 lengthwise keels may be present on the carapace.

Color and Pattern
Mottled markings on the head, neck and limbs.
Light markings on the head tend to form a pair of stripes on each side of the head.
The feet are webbed, the tail is short, and there are barbels on the throat.
Carapace color is olive to dark brown, with darkly-marked seams.
The plastron is hinged and yellow to brown in color with darkly-marked seams.
Male / Female Differences
Males are smaller with a concave plastron and a longer thicker tail.

Life History and Behavior

Activity
Most information for this species comes from individuals studied in Arizona. Little is known about the life history of California animals.

Active during the day and at night, becoming more nocturnal in hot summer weather. Active all year, though feeding may not occur during the cold of winter. Higher-elevation populations may be forced to hibernate in winter.

Mostly sedentary, rarely moving out of or away from water, but occasionally migrates considerable distances from one waterway to another.
Diet and Feeding
Omnivorous, eating mostly animals including snails, fish, frogs, tadpoles, crustaceans, and other small invertebrates, along with some plant material.
Breeding
Females lay a clutch of 1 - 11 eggs from May to September, which take almost a year to hatch.
Sometimes as many as four clutches a year are laid.
Females reach sexual maturity 6 years, males in 2- 6 years.

Geographical Range
Historic range was southwestern New Mexico, southern Arizona, southeast California along the Colorado River, and Chihuahua and Sonora, Mexico. Now apparently extinct along the Colorado River.

In California, the historic range was adjacent to the Colorado River from the Nevada Border south to the Mexican border. Desert Mud Turtles also began dispersing into agricultural canals in the Imperial Valley before they disappeared from California. Some of the old California records include Palo Verde, Yuma Indian Reservation, Ft. Mojave, and near Laguna Dam.

Habitat
In California, formerly found in the desert in overflow channels of the lower Colorado River.
Normally occurs in ponds and slow-moving tree-lined watercourses, including quiet pools in streams, oxbows, ponds, creeks, and cattle tanks.
Found in woodlands and occasionally in grasslands. Needs a permanent or nearly permanent water source.

Notes on Taxonomy
Two subspecies have been described, including Kinosternon sonoriense longifemorale, the Sonoyta Mud Turtle.

Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
Endangered.

This species appears to be declining over much of its range. The last known verifiable record along the Colorado River was from near Laguna Dam in 1962.

The reasons for this turtles apparent extinction in California are uncertain, but most likely a combination of introduced aquatic predators such as bullfrogs and Louisiana red swamp crayfish, introduced vegetation, especially salt cedar, and widespread water and land alterations along the Colorado River including reservoirs, dams, and agriculture, is responsible.
Taxonomy
Family Kinosternidae Mud and Musk Turtles Agassiz, 1857
Genus Kinosternon American Mud Turtles Spix, 1824
Species sonoriense Sonora Mud Turtle LeConte, 1854
Subspecies

sonoriense Desert Mud Turtle LeConte, 1854
Original Description
Kinosternon sonoriense - Le Conte, 1854 - Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia, Vol. 7, p. 184

from Original Description Citations for the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America © Ellin Beltz

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Kinsoternon - Greek - kineo - move, and sternon- chest, breast - refers to their ability to move the lower shell
sonoriense
- belonging to Sonora Province, Mexico -- type locality, "Tucson in Sonora"

from Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained © Ellin Beltz

Alternate Names
Sonora Mud Turtle
Sonoran Mud Turtle

Related or Similar California Turtles
A. m. pallida - Southern Pacific Pond Turtle

A. m. marmorata - Northern Pacific Pond Turtle

C. p. bellii - Western Painted Turtle

T. s. elegans - Red-eared Slider

More Information and References
California Department of Fish and Wildlife

California Turtle and Tortoise Club

Reptiles of Arizona


AMPHIBIAN AND REPTILE SPECIES OF SPECIAL CONCERN IN CALIFORNIA
A report to the California Department of Fish and Game
Mark R. Jennings and Marc P. Hayes, November 1, 1994

Stebbins, Robert C., and McGinnis, Samuel M.  Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Revised Edition (California Natural History Guides) University of California Press, 2012.

Stebbins, Robert C. California Amphibians and Reptiles. The University of California Press, 1972.

Stebbins, Robert C. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.

Behler, John L., and F. Wayne King. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Powell, Robert., Joseph T. Collins, and Errol D. Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians and Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. The University Press of Kansas, 1998.

Bartlett, R. D. & Patricia P. Bartlett. Guide and Reference to the Turtles and Lizards of Western North America (North of Mexico) and Hawaii. University Press of Florida, 2009.

Carr, Archie. Handbook of Turtles: The Turtles of the United States, Canada, and Baja California. Cornell University Press, 1969.

Ernst, Carl H., Roger W. Barbour, & Jeffrey E. Lovich. Turtles of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution 1994. (2nd Edition published 2009)


Conservation Status

The following status listings come from the Special Animals List and the Endangered and Threatened Animals List which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.



Organization
Status Listing
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife DFG:SSC California Species of Special Concern
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service None
 

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