Smooth Softshell Turtles, Apalone mutica, prefer medium to large rivers with clean sand where they spend substantial amounts of time buried in the bottom sand substrate; however, the habitat requirements of hatchling A. mutica are poorly known. We designed a laboratory experiment to determine whether the presence of an underwater sand substrate affects growth and condition of hatchling A. mutica. We found that hatchlings maintained on a sand substrate grew faster and differed in body appearance compared to hatchlings maintained without a sand substrate. A readily accessible sandy substrate in which to bury may be a significant habitat component for A. mutica hatchlings. In addition, investigators maintaining A. mutica, and likely other softshell species in the laboratory, should consider the species' substrate requirements in their research design.
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