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any of about 18 species of semiterrestrial freshwater turtles belonging to the family Kinosternidae. Mud turtles are found in North and South America from New England to northern Argentina. Like the related musk turtles (Sternotherus), they are small animals (usually 15 cm [6 inches] or less in shell length) with fleshy barbels on the chin and the ability to exude a strong, musky odour. They differ from musk turtles by having a broad lower shell with a hinged section at either end. The hinged portions of the shells of some species can be pulled up to cover and protect the head, legs, and tail of the turtle.