It’s not every day you see a turtle with a mohawk – even if that mohawk is made up of algae and not hair. The Mary River turtle is eye-catching for this stylish feature, and it is also known as a butt-breather, or a reptile that can breathe through its genitals. But this unique animal is now ranked 29 out of 100 on the Zoological Society of London‘s EDGE of Existence Program‘s list of vulnerable reptiles.
According to an article from herpetologist Rikki Gumbs, the Mary River turtle can breathe through organs in its cloaca — an ability that allows the turtle to remain underwater for as long as 72 hours. Gumbs is also a lead author on a recently published PLOS One study that, according to The Guardian, highlights that reptiles such as the Mary River turtle are in trouble. According to Gumbs, “Intense historical collection for the pet trade, combined with habitat disturbance in its tiny range, mean this species is threatened with extinction.”
We launched our #EDGEreptiles list yesterday, and the #punkturtle Elusor macrurus has stolen the show with its algae mohawk and unique ability to breathe through its genitals! Read more about the Mary river turtle here: https://t.co/CLfd355DQT pic.twitter.com/TYhZPyWveT
— EDGE of Existence (@EDGEofExistence) April 12, 2018
The freshwater turtle lives in Queensland, Australia in — as you might have guessed — the Mary River. EDGE explained yet another reason why the turtle is so distinct: “The only species in its genus, the Mary River turtle diverged from all other living species around 40 million years ago. In comparison, we split from our closest relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos, less than 10 million years ago.”
The International Union for Conservation of Nature also lists the Mary River turtle as endangered on its Red List. EDGE said it takes a long time for the reptiles to reach sexual maturity; they don’t breed before age 25. Dam construction is one key factor in their decline. The organization said conservation programs are now in place to protect the species.
Other striking turtles that made the top 10 list include the Cantor’s giant softshell, which is among the largest freshwater turtles in the world; the pig-nosed turtle, whose nose says it all; and the Roti Island snake-necked turtle, “one of the 15 most endangered turtles worldwide.”
Via The Guardian
Image courtesy of Chris Van Wyk/Zoological Society of London