While most freshwater turtles have hard boney shells, three species known as softshell turtles have fleshy shells adapted for swimming. Turtle shells provide protection from predators. Snapping turtles, such as the Florida snapping turtle and the alligator snapping turtle, can bite with great force and reach large sizes.
Turtles are ancient shelled reptiles that have existed for 220 million years. The southeastern United States is one of the richest areas in the world for turtle diversity, and Florida is among the top states in turtle species numbers, with over 30 native turtle species, most of which are freshwater turtles. Besides freshwater turtles, Florida is home to the gopher tortoise, box turtles, and five sea turtle species.
Although all turtles are air-breathing reptiles, aquatic turtles can hold their breath for long periods of time. All freshwater turtles lay eggs on land in holes they have dug. When the eggs hatch, the baby turtles (hatchlings) return to water.
Florida has approved strong conservation measures for freshwater turtles.