I went out today looking for one thing, but ended up with quite another. I saw kids playing at our neighborhood park, people doing yard work, and others toiling away at home improvement projects. But wouldn't ya know, the thing that struck my fancy was this little guy basking on a piece of stone. He's a spiny soft-shelled turtle, official name Apalone spinifera, that I first thought was a leaf, fallen on the stone in the middle of the creek.
The turtle I saw was about the same size as it appears on screen, which means he's probably immature; apparently they can become quite large, with females of the species living up to 50 years. Their shell is not hard, but flexible, especially at the edges. According to the information I read, they're really graceful in the water and like to eat such things as minnows and worms. They can lie submerged for hours, with just their snout above water, waiting for a juicy tidbit.
What I find odd is that I had gone looking for the common snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina, but found this little fella instead, which habituates the Mississippi River drainage area, including the Ohio and Allegheny Rivers. The urban creek where this guy resides is about 90 to 100 miles inland from the Ohio River.
Hmm, more research and additional inquiries needed.
I just received an E-mail from Sarabeth Klueh, a herpetologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, who identified the turtle as a spiny soft-shell, rather than a smooth soft-shell turtle. She said that projections can be seen just behind its head. I've changed the copy to reflect that information.