Fly River turtle (Description- biology- threats)- Video

This video was filmed at the Sea World (San Diego, California) during January 2015

Ownership of the video and review: Abdel Rahman El Gamal (Founder of the video channel)

Fly River turtle



General: Fly River Turtles (Carettochelys insculpta), are also known, as pitted-shelled turtle and also as “pig-nosed turtle” because of their bulbous fleshy shout with prominently pig-like divided nostrils. This species of turtle is native to freshwater streams, lagoons and rivers of the Northern Territory of Australia, as well as to the island of New Guinea. Fly River turtles prefer freshwater rivers, and billabongs with a soft bottom and a depth of one to three meters with dense forests of broadleaf trees along the shores (for feeding). Fly River turtle can grow to about 70 cm carapace length, and to a weight of over 20 kg up to 30 kg.

Description: The Fly River turtle are characterized by their flipper-shaped forelimbs which ensure that turtles have powerful forward locomotion while the hind limbs, with wide webbed surface along with the flap of skin that goes from the hind limbs to the tail, acts as a steering rudder which speeds their escape from typical predators like crocodiles. Each limb has two claws; the claws on the forelimbs are used for tearing food apart as well as for holding onto the carapace of females. The carapace is typically grey to olive (from above), ending in a fleshy snout with two elongated snout with pig-like nostrils that extends above the water like a snorkel enable the turtle to inhale air without being exposed. Males can be distinguished from females by their longer, heavier and narrower tails with the cloaca midway along while the female cloaca is at the base of the tail.

Food: These turtles are opportunistic omnivores eating a wide variety of plant and animal matter including the fruit and leaves of wild fig, flowers, seeds as well as aquatic insects, snails, molluscs, crustaceans, and fish. They may also consume algae and submerged plants. These turtles are known to congregate under overhanging branches and consume fruits as figs and bush apples which fall from the shoreline trees. Their prominent nose acts as a sense organ which can detect food sources, even in muddy water.

Reproduction: Females of Fly River turtle reach maturity at 18-20 or more years of age whereas for the males it is 14–16 years. Courtship and mating occur in the water, it is believed that the male uses his claws to hold onto the female’s carapace during mating. Afterwards, females leave the water and begin to dig nests on sandy river banks using their hind limbs. The clutch size is between seven and 39 eggs. Laid eggs are white, spherical and brittle shelled.

The incubation takes about 100 days during which the development of nested eggs continues but fully developed embryos do not hatch before the existence of trigging factors during the rainy season whereas nested eggs are flooded with water. Based on research findings, after the yolk is absorbed, hatching can be delayed up to 50 days as they stop developing until the rainy season begins; with the oxygen level greatly reduced hatching is triggered. This explains the phenomenon of synchronized hatching of eggs nested at different times. After the hatchlings reach the water, they do not leave this aquatic habitat except to lay eggs.

Threats: Fly River turtle is primarily threatened by over hunting for its eggs and meat for human consumption and by over collection for the pet trade. However, in countries where its eggs and meat is not consumed, turtles are caught and killed by fishermen who believe that turtles raid the bait intended for catching other species. Habitats degradation and pollution are among the threatening factors to the Fly River turtles.

References: Sea World, Status: IUCN: Vulnerable CITES: Appendix II, Toronto Zoo, National Aquarium


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