Claudius angustatusNarrow-bridged Musk Turtle

Geographic Range

Narrow-bridged musk turtles are found surrounding the Gulf of Mexico, occupying Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. (Cervantes-Lopez, et al., 2021; Tortoise & Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, 2016; "Turtles of the World", 2021)


Narrow-bridged musk turtles are semi-aquatic, occupying terrestrial and freshwater areas. They are commonly found in floodplains, semi-permanent water bodies, streams, swamps, and ponds. They tend to be in hot and humid lowland areas with semi-arid and dry tropical climates. They live in elevations below 300 meters and occupy small bodies of water. During the dry season, primarily from March to May, narrow-bridged musk turtles migrate either underground or in areas with an adequate amount of mud. Then, during the rainy season which encompasses June to November, they congregate in common areas in preparation for their courtship and reproduction period. (Cervantes-Lopez, et al., 2021; Tortoise & Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, 2016; "Turtles of the World", 2021)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams
  • temporary pools
  • coastal
  • Range elevation
    300 (high) m
    984.25 (high) ft

Physical Description

Narrow-bridged musk turtles have an average adult weight of 350-600g, with males tending to be larger than females. They exhibit sexual dimorphism, with the males being larger than females and have fastening organs on the hind limbs and tail. There is little to no information on their metabolic rate and differences in coloring based on gender. These turtles are identified by sharp maxillary cusps in their upper jaw and large heads with hooked jaws. They also have webbed digits and a long tail that ends in a keratinized spine. Their heads and shells are dark in color with some light spots. Their necks and undersides are more pale gray in color. They do not differ much based on age, causing their infantile features to be very similar to their adult features. ("AnAge entry for Claudius Angustatus", 2017; Cervantes-Lopez, et al., 2021; "Turtles of the World", 2021)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    350 to 600 g
    12.33 to 21.15 oz
  • Range length
    120 to 170 mm
    4.72 to 6.69 in


Once eggs are fertilized, female narrow-bridged musk turtles will lay their eggs in areas of vegetation where they then go through an incubation period of 95-229 days before hatching. Their eggs are ellipsoidal and are produced asymmetrically in the female. When they hatch, they are about 4.3-7.9g and continue to grow larger. They are produced in a 1:1 ratio of males to females. They reach sexual maturity at a size of 89mm for females and 98mm for males. However, they can range rather significantly in size and reproductive maturity status. (Cervantes-Lopez, et al., 2021; Flores-Villela and Zug, 1995)


During the rainy season, from June to November, narrow-bridged musk turtles enter the courtship and reproduction period. This occurs when the narrow-bridged musk turtles leave their underground nests and seek out mates. Males seem to outnumber females in the wild, causing them to have to compete for female mates. Males also have larger mass than females and fastening organs on their rear appendages to assist with mating. Each season narrow-bridged musk turtles find a mate for that year only, in future seasons they may find a different individual to mate with. (Cervantes-Lopez, et al., 2021; Flores-Villela and Zug, 1995)

Narrow-bridged musk turtles reproduce once yearly, with their courting and reproduction period being from June to November. Female narrow-bridged musk turtles typically have 1-2 clutches per season, with each clutch having 2-8 eggs. The females then lay their eggs on or within vegetation. There seems to be no preparatory nest building or digging and they just lay their eggs where they come across vegetation. They are then incubated for 95-229 days, with an average of 194 days before they hatch. They seem to reach sexual maturity when females are about 89mm and males are 98mm. It can also be known when there is a presence of spermatozoa (mature and motile sperm) in males. (Cervantes-Lopez, et al., 2021; Flores-Villela and Zug, 1995)

  • Breeding interval
    The narrow-bridged musk turtle breeds once a year.
  • Breeding season
    June to November
  • Range number of offspring
    2 to 8
  • Average number of offspring

There is limited information about parental investment, however, solely females participate in caring for the hatchlings. Female narrow-bridged musk turtles don't prepare for laying eggs by building a nest. Instead they lay their eggs when they come across a site of vegetation. After that, the eggs take an average of 194 days to mature and hatch. There is limited information on if the females help and care for them after hatching. (Cervantes-Lopez, et al., 2021; Flores-Villela and Zug, 1995)


There is limited information on the lifespan of narrow-bridged musk turtles, with the only known age of one held in captivity being 16.1 years. However, narrow-bridged musk turtles face threats from illegal hunting, habitat loss and degradation, and road mortality. They are often hunted for their meat or sold as pets, which decreases their wild population. ("AnAge entry for Claudius Angustatus", 2017; Cervantes-Lopez, et al., 2021; "Turtles of the World", 2021)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    16.1 (high) years


Narrow-bridged musk turtles are not very social with other species or within their own species. As they are solitary creatures, they solely interact with others of their species during the mating season or by coexisting in shared territory. They are known to be aggressive towards other species and are commonly found with their mouths open in a threatening display. Narrow-bridged musk turtles reside in their territory and venture out to find food in shallow bodies of water. (Cervantes-Lopez, et al., 2021; Flores-Villela and Zug, 1995)

Home Range

Narrow-bridged musk turtles travel short distances and don't have specific territories that they defend. During different seasons they do change the type of area they reside in, however, they do not have a specific range. They also are not territorial as they can live with others of their own species in the same area. (Cervantes-Lopez, et al., 2021; Flores-Villela and Zug, 1995)

Communication and Perception

Narrow-bridged musk turtles have developed auditory and visual systems. The auditory system most likely evolved to be a motion detector. They have otoliths and a tympanic middle ear, which allows them to detect acceleration and acoustics. They can hear wavelengths between 100-500 Hz and 35 dB. Their visual system exhibits corneal eyes, which provides refraction and the deformable lens supports accommodation. They are not very social and have been reported as hostile towards other species. There is limited information on how they communicate with other animals. (Ladich and Popper, 2004; Munscher, et al., 2022; "Claudius angustatus Cope 1865", 2022)

Food Habits

Narrow-bridged musk turtles are able to puncture and pin their prey with maxillary cusps or fangs that are on either side of their jaws. They have a varied diet and eat arthropods, mollusks, tadpoles, frogs, and aquatic vegetation. They also do eat other smaller turtle species. They eat crustaceans, aquatic insects, and their larvae. Narrow-bridged musk turtles are not selective with their diet and have been found to eat meat, fish, shrimps, and worms. (Munscher, et al., 2022; Vasquez Cruz and Reynoso-Martinez, 2020)

  • Animal Foods
  • amphibians
  • insects
  • mollusks


Narrow-bridged musk turtles have glands at the rear of their bodies that give off a foul scent to ward away predators as a chemical defense. They also have barbels on their chin and throat, along with a hinge on their shell to enclose themselves inside for protection. Some of their predators include racoons Procyon lotor, skunks Mephitis mephitis, birds Aves, foxes Vulpes vulpes, snakes Serpentes, alligators, and occasionally other turtles. Their eggs are targeted more often than adult bodies and are eaten by many snakes and mammals. As narrow-bridged musk turtles are a predatory animal, they also partake in cannibalism. ("Common Musk Turtle: Ultimate Guide", 2023; "Turtles in Belize", 2000)

Ecosystem Roles

Narrow-bridged musk turtles are not parasitic and don't use other species as a host. However, they have been found carrying many organisms including algae and parasites. They are also predators towards a multitude of small aquatic animals while being prey to larger aquatic and mammalian species. (Thatcher, 1963)

Species Used as Host
  • Algae
Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • trematodes (Telorchis corti)
  • trematodes (Telorchis patonianus)
  • parasitic flatworms (Herpetodiplostomum delillei)
  • parasitic flatworms (Heronimus mollis)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Narrow-bridged musk turtles are hunted for meat consumption and are often captured to be sold as pets. Humans benefit from both the meat trade and the pet trade, where narrow-bridged musk turtles are captured and sold throughout the world. (Cervantes-Lopez, et al., 2021)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Narrow-bridged musk turtles are commonly used as household pets, causing them to be bought and sold by humans. They are also known to cause injury to humans by biting when they are handled. Bites are known to cause salmonella infections as these turtles carry the bacteria. ("Turtles in Belize", 2000)

Conservation Status

Narrow-bridged musk turtles are classified as near threatened from their popular use in trade. They are often captured for meat consumption by humans or killed when crossing roads. There are also threats from forest loss and degradation that increase their mortality rate. There are currently no actions to reduce the mortality of narrow-bridged musk turtles other than attempts to reduce hunting. There is no population estimate known, however, they are constantly being bred in captivity and sold as pets. (Cervantes-Lopez, et al., 2021)


Madeline Salomon (author), Colorado State University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat

causes disease in humans

an animal which directly causes disease in humans. For example, diseases caused by infection of filarial nematodes (elephantiasis and river blindness).


the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


mainly lives in water that is not salty.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.


eats mollusks, members of Phylum Mollusca


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


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Duellman, W. 1963. Museum of Comparative Zoology--Biodiversity Heritage Library digitization project. University of Kansas publications, Museum of Natural History, 15: 205-249. Accessed February 12, 2023 at

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Ladich, F., A. Popper. 2004. Parallel Evolution in Fish Hearing Organs. Evolution of the Vertebrate Auditory System, 22: 95-96. Accessed March 18, 2023 at

Munscher, E., T. Pop, L. Pearson, H. Barrett, G. Knauss. 2022. First verified observation of the Narrow-bridged Musk Turtle, Claudius angustatus Cope, 1865 from the Toledo District of southern Belize. Herpetology Notes, 15: 735-740. Accessed March 18, 2023 at file:///C:/Users/Owner/Downloads/74045.pdf.

Natchev, N., N. Tzankov, I. Werneburg, E. Heiss. 2015. Feeding behavior in a 'basal' tortoise provides insights on the transitional feeding mode at the dawn of modern land turtle evolution. LONDON: Peerj Inc, 3: 1172.

Pozo, C. 2001. "Herpetological Review 32" (On-line). Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. Accessed February 12, 2023 at file:///C:/Users/Owner/Downloads/HR%202001.32.3.pgs177-208R.pdf.

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Thatcher, V. 1963. Trematodes of Turtles from Tabasco, Mexico, with a Description of a New Species of Dadaytrema. The American Midland Naturalist, Vol 70, Issue 2: 347-355. Accessed April 09, 2023 at

Torres-Hernandez, L., Ramirez-Bautista. 2021. The herpetofauna of Veracruz, Mexico. Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, 2: 93, 110, 123,. Accessed February 12, 2023 at[General_Section]_72-155_e285.pdf.

Tortoise & Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, 2016. "Narrow-bridged Musk Turtle" (On-line). Accessed February 12, 2023 at

Vasquez Cruz, V., A. Reynoso-Martinez. 2020. Contributions to the knowledge of the natural history of Claudius angustatus in Veracruz, Mexico. Phyllomedusa Journal of Herpetology, 19/1: 113-116. Accessed March 18, 2023 at