Stripe-necked Musk Turtle
Sternotherus minor peltifer

Common Name:

Stripe-necked Musk Turtle

Scientific Name:

Sternotherus minor peltifer



Sternotherus is derived from the Greek word sternon which means "sternum" and therion which means "wild animal".


minor is derived from the Latin word minor meaning "less".


peltifer is derived from the Latin word pelta meaning "a small shield" and fer meaning to "bear". This refers to the small scutes on the bridge.

Average Length:

3 - 4 in. (7.5 - 10 cm)

Virginia Record Length:

4.5 in. (11.6 cm)

Record length:

4.6 in. (11.7 cm)

Virginia Wildlife Action Plan Rating Tier IV - Moderate Conservation Need - The species may be rare in parts of its range, particularly on the periphery. Populations of these species have demonstrated a significant declining trend or one is suspected which, if continued, is likely to qualify this species for a higher tier in the foreseeable future. Long-term planning is necessary to stabilize or increase populations.

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: A small turtle with carapace length ranging from 69-116mm with 116 CL being the maximum in Virginia. The carapace is arched and scutes overlap. It is brown to olive brown with some possible darker (black) markings. Scutes are as follows: 11 marginals on each side, 4 pleurals on each side and 5 vertebrals *10760,11624*. Plastron is reduced in size and scutes allow the exposure of white skin between them. Measurements in length vary from 69-92mm with the maximum for VA being 92 PL. It has one weakly developed hinge. It is usually yellow with dark blotches on the scutes. It is about 63-79% of the carapace length *10760,11624*. Skin is brown to gray-brown with lighter mottling on the legs. Neck has numerous yellow and black stripes. Lower beak is sharply curved *10760*. Females are slightly bigger than males. As in other turtles the males anal opening extends past the edge of the shell, also the male has a spine at the end of the tail *10760*. Weight ranges from 52-203g with 203g being the maximum known Virginia weight *10760*.

JUVENILES: Juveniles look like adults but have a single keel on the carapace. It can be distinguished from S. odoratus by the difference in striping and S. odoratus has two pair of barbels *10760*.

REPRODUCTION: The male age at sexual maturity is 3 to 4 years, with a carapace length of 60-70 mm. The female age at sexual maturity 6-8 years, with a carapace length of 90-100 mm *2987*. Nothing definitive is known about reproduction in Virginia. Mating presumably occurs in spring with nesting starting in mid-May and continuing to July. In Florida incubation time was 84 days *10760*.

BEHAVIOR: This species is not known to bask, but may occasionally seen to perch on limbs and roots *2987,10760*. It is completely aquatic and is found almost exclusively in rivers. Overwintering occurs in the water in muskrat burrows and under banks. Activity period during the year is unknown. It feeds mostly during the morning and not at night *2988*. It is carnivorous and feeds primarily on mollusks, though they also eat aquatic insects and crustaceans. Can spend extended periods of time underwater because of the ability to absorb oxygen through the tissue of the mouth and throat *10760*. They do not usually swim but walk along the bottom of the waterways *10809*.

ORIGIN: This species is native *10760*.

POPULATION PARAMETERS: The sex ratio is 1:1 *2988*. Other information is not known.

AQUATIC/TERRESTRIAL ASSOCIATIONS: Predators of this species are unknown but are probably the usual ones, snakes, raccoons, skunks, snapping turtles and large fish *10760*.

References for Life History

  • 2987 - Tinkle, D.W., 1958, The systematics and ecology of the Stenotherus carinatus complex (Testudinata: Chelydridae), Tulane Studies in Zool., Vol. 6, Num. 1, pg. 1-56
  • 2988 - Ernst, C.H., R.W. Barbour, 1972, Turtles of the United States, 347 pgs., Univ. Press of Kentucky, Lexington
  • 10760 - Mitchell, J. C., 1994, The Reptiles of Virginia, 352 pgs., Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC
  • 10809 - Mitchell, J.C., C.A. Pague, 1987, A review of reptiles of special concern in Virginia, Virginia Journal of Science, Vol. 38, Ser. WINTER, Num. 4, pg. 319-328
  • 11624 - Mitchell, J. C., 2001, Personal Communication, Expert review for GAP Analysis Project, Mitchell Ecological Research LLC


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Verified County/City Occurrence

Lee County
Scott County
Verified in 2 Counties/Cities.


Virginia is home to 28 species of frogs and toads.


We have a large diversity of salamanders consisting of 56 different species and subspecies.


Virginia is home to 9 native lizard species and two introduced species, the Mediterranean Gecko and the Italian Wall Lizard.


The Commonwealth is home to 34 species and subspecies of snake. Only 3 species are venomous.


Virginia has 25 species and subspecies of turtle. Five of these species are sea turtle.