We investigated the development of the whole skeleton of the soft-shelled turtle Pelodiscus sinensis, with particular emphasis on the pattern and sequence of ossification. Ossification starts at late Tokita-Kuratani stage (TK) 18 with the maxilla, followed by the dentary and prefrontal. The quadrate is the first endoskeletal ossification and appears at TK stage 22. All adult skull elements have started ossification by TK stage 25. Plastral bones are the first postcranial bones to ossify, whereas the nuchal is the first carapacial bone to ossify, appearing as two unstained anlagen. Extensive examination of ossification sequences among autopodial elements reveals much intraspecific variation. Patterns of ossification of cranial dermal elements are more variable than those of endochondral elements, and dermal elements ossify before endochondral ones. Differences in ossification sequences with Apalone spinifera include: in Pelodiscus sinensis the jugal develops relatively early and before the frontal, whereas it appears later in A. spinifera; the frontal appears shortly before the parietal in A. spinifera whereas in P. sinensis the parietal appears several stages before the frontal. Chelydrids exhibit an early development of the postorbital bone and the palatal elements as compared to trionychids. Integration of the onset of ossification data into an analysis of the sequence of skeletal ossification in cryptodirans using the event-pairing and Parsimov methods reveals heterochronies, some of which reflect the hypothesized phylogeny considered taxa. A functional interpretation of heterochronies is speculative. In the chondrocranium there is no contact between the nasal capsules and planum supraseptale via the sphenethmoid commissurae. The pattern of chondrification of forelimb and hind limb elements is consistent with a primary axis and digital arch. There is no evidence of anterior condensations distal to the radius and tibia. A pattern of quasi- simultaneity is seen in the chondrogenesis of the forelimb and the hind limb.