Kinosternon scorpioides




Scientific Name: Kinosternon scorpioides.There are 4 sub-species, K.s. scorpioides being the only one found in Brazil. 

Common Name: muçuã. Jurará.

Spanish: tapaculo.

English: Scorpion Mud Turtle.

Length/Weight: Up to 20cm and 500g.

Appearance: The plastron is hinged and sufficiently long enough to enable the carapace to be closed. The end of the tail has a horny spine from which this species gets its name. Males are larger than females. The carapace is dark brown and oval and has 3 keels. There are 6 -8 barbels on the brown or grey head and the jaw is normally yellow.

Behaviour:  The feet are webbed, but this species divides its time between the water and land and prefers to walk along the bottom rather than swim. They can be aggresive and may inflict a painful bite with the horny parrot-like beak. When the male of a species is larger than the female, it often indicates that the males either compete for females or have to subdue them. 

Habitat: They are found in shallow water, in flooded forests, swamps and ponds from Mexico down to Argentina and is reportedly the chelonian with the widest distribution in the Neo-tropics.

Diet: Omnivores feeding on fruit, seeds, algae, fish, amphibians and carrion. They tend towards the more carnivorus end of the omnivore scale.

Reproduction: They lay 2 - 6 eggs in a shallow terrestrial nest. The incubation period varies from 3 to 6 months and is determined by a range of environmental conditions, not necessarily temperature. The sex of the offspring is temperature determined.

Exploitation: This species is widely consumed in Para where "casquinha de Muçuã" is one of Belem's most famous dishes. 

Conservation: Not currently classified as at risk but widespread consumption of adults and eggs together with deforestation has seen a decline in numbers in some areas.


Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises:
A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group

Edited by

Anders G.J. Rhodin, John B. Iverson, Peter Paul van Dijk,
Raymond A. Saumure, Kurt A. Buhlmann, Peter C.H. Pritchard,

Kinosternon scorpioides (Linnaeus 1766) – Scorpion Mud Turtle. 063
(includes K. s. scorpioides, K. s. abaxillare, K. s. albogulare, and K. s. cruentatum)
James F. Berry and John B. Iverson. 31 Dec 2011. 15 pp. (Download pdf)