SONOYTA MUD TURTLE } Kinosternon sonoriense longifemorale
FAMILY: Kinosternidae

DESCRIPTION: The Sonoyta mud turtle is a dark, medium-sized turtle with a shell up to seven inches long. The upper shell is olive to dark brown; the lower shell is hinged, front and back, and varies from yellow to cream colored. Sonoyta mud turtles have mottled patterns on their limbs, head, and neck. Long barbs are typically present on the chin. All four of the mud turtle's feet are webbed.

HABITAT: An aquatic species of turtle, the Sonoyta mud turtle is found in springs, creeks, ponds, and waterholes of intermittent streams.

RANGE: The Sonoyta mud turtle occurs in the pond at Quitobaquito Springs in Arizona's Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, stream habitat in the nearby Rio Sonoyta in Sonora, Mexico, and in a spring complex to the south of the Rio Sonoyta at Quitovac.

MIGRATION: The Sonoyta mud turtle is nonmigratory.

BREEDING: Female Sonoyta mud turtles leave the water to bury a clutch of two to nine eggs sometime between May and September.

LIFE CYCLE: Sonoyta mud turtles may live as long as 40 years, taking five to six years to reach adulthood.

FEEDING: These turtles eat aquatic insects, crustaceans, snails, fish, frogs, and plants. They often crawl deliberately and methodically along the bottom of pools looking for food.

THREATS: The Rio Sonoyta valley has extensive fields of irrigated agriculture, which use water from underground wells. Likewise, most of the water supply for the town of Sonoyta, as well as the nearby border town of Lukeville, is drawn from the same aquifer. Continued groundwater pumping could completely dry up the river. The introduction of exotic species, agricultural pesticide use, livestock grazing, and ever-increasing human activities related to immigration enforcement are additional threats.

POPULATION TREND: The Sonoyta mud turtle population in the United States exists at a single reservoir within the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, named Quitobaquito Springs. In decline from an estimated population of several hundred individuals half a century ago, Sonoyta mud turtles in the United States number around 130 today. The population is isolated from the Rio Sonoyta in Mexico, only one mile away. This means that if the American population disappears, the reservoir at Quitobaquito Springs cannot be recolonized with mud turtles from Mexico.


PPhoto courtesy George Andrejko/Arizona Game and Fish Department