Movement and home range of the smooth softshell turtle (Apalone mutica): Spatial ecology of a river specialist

Jason P. Ross, Robert D. Bluett, Michael J. Dreslik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spatial ecological information is necessary to guide the conservation efforts of river turtles, but it is lacking for many species including the smooth softshell turtle (Apalone mutica). We investigated the spatial ecology of A. mutica in two reaches of the Kaskaskia River in Illinois, USA to determine variables influencing movement rates, the best estimate of home range, and variables influencing home range size. We radio-tracked 28 A. mutica from 2013 to 2014 and used an information theoretic approach to select the best models describing movement and home range estimates. Mean movement rate was 142.3 m/day and was highly variable with some movements >2 km/day. Movement peaked at moderate water temperatures early in the active season, increased at higher water levels for females, and was greater in the higher stream order. The sexes responded differently to environmental variation, with female movement higher in most but not all conditions. The most informative home range estimate was a 95% kernel density estimate using likelihood cross-validation (CVh) smoothing clipped to the river channel. The mean home range size was 18.1 hectares and increased with movement rate, number of radio-locations, and stream order. Most turtles had well-defined home ranges, though a few were possibly nomadic. Our methods also provide a framework for spatial ecological studies of other riverine species.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number124
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Apalone mutica
  • Conservation
  • Herpetology
  • Home range
  • Movement
  • River
  • Smooth softshell turtle
  • Spatial ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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