Feeding ecology and diet

Most species are primarily carnivorous; however, plant material may occasionally be consumed. The majority of softshell species are generalists; all forms of animal matter (live or as carrion) are taken opportunistically. A few species are highly specialized for ambushing fish and other free-swimming aquatic animals. Adaptations for this mode of prey acquisition are most highly developed in the Asian narrow-headed softshell (Chitra indica); these turtles have small, forward-set eyes and exceptionally long necks that can be thrust from the sandy bottom with explosive speed and deadly accuracy.

A narrow-headed softshell turtle (Chitra indica), locally called "chitra chitra," breaks out of its shell. This rare turtle is claimed to be the world's biggest softshell turtle at its full-grown weight of 440 lb (200 kg). (Photograph. AP Wide World/Fishery Department. Reproduced by permission.)

A narrow-headed softshell turtle (Chitra indica), locally called "chitra chitra," breaks out of its shell. This rare turtle is claimed to be the world's biggest softshell turtle at its full-grown weight of 440 lb (200 kg). (Photograph. AP Wide World/Fishery Department. Reproduced by permission.)

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