Elseya albagula

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Elseya albagula
E albagula 4.jpg
Closeup of head, showing white throat.
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Pleurodira
Family: Chelidae
Subfamily: Chelodininae
Genus: Elseya
Species: E. albagula
Binomial name
Elseya albagula
Thomson, Georges & Limpus, 2006[1]
Synonyms[2][3][4]
  • Elseya albagula
    Thomson, Georges & Limpus, 2006
  • Elseya dentata albagula
    — Artner, 2008
  • Elseya albagula
    — Georges & Thomson, 2010

Elseya albagula, commonly known as the white-throated snapping turtle, is one of the largest species of chelid turtles in the world, growing to approximately 45 cm (18 in) carapace length.[1]

The species is endemic to south-eastern Queensland, Australia, found in the Burnett, Mary, and Fitzroy River Drainages. This species is entirely aquatic, rarely coming ashore and is chiefly herbivorous feeding on the fruits and buds of riparian vegetation, algaes, and large aquatic plants.[1]

First proposed as a species by John Goode in the 1960s,[5] it was finally described in 2006.[1] The species is named from the Latin alba = white and gula = throat, which is a reference to the white blotching present on the throats of adult females in the species.[1]

The type locality for the species is the Burnett River in south-eastern Queensland, Australia, however it is also found in the Mary and Fitzroy River drainage's to the north of the Burnett.[1] Some have argued for each of these rivers to represent different species, however DNA, morphological and morphometric analysis does not support this conclusion.[1][6]

Etymology[edit]

The specific name, albagula, is derived from the Latin adjective "alba" meaning white and the noun "gula" for throat, both of which are feminine. Hence the name means "white-throated" and refers to the white or cream throat commonly seen in adult females of this species.

Description[edit]

The carapace of this species is broadly oval but is blunt at the front. In younger animals it has keeled scutes along the back. The carapace is dark brown to black in color, smooth with no growth annuli and generally lackluster.[1] The plastron is heavily stained in adults appearing black over the true base color of yellow to cream. The plastron is narrow compared to the carapace.

The head is large and robust with a complete head shield that does not approach the ears. The tomial sheath is large, and inside an alveolar ridge is distinct and well formed.[1] The head is typically dark brown to grey above and, in females, is usually blotched with cream to white in the throat region.

Conservation[edit]

There are three major factors impacting the survival of this species. The first is nest predation and nest destruction, particularly by introduced species such as foxes that dig up the nests and cattle which trample them.[7] The second is the damming of the rivers in which they occur, with all but one of the rivers in which the species is found now dammed to some degree. This changes the temperature regimes within the river affecting reproduction.[7][8] It also impacts the remodeling of sand banks during flood events eventually leading to unusable nesting sites. It has been demonstrated that the populations are aging, meaning that there are larger numbers of adults with little recruitment.[7][8] The last factor is the damage to individuals as they get washed over dam walls to their deaths.[7]

A number of actions have been proposed. A head start program is being supported by the Queensland Government where eggs are incubated at a hatchery with the young then released and monitored.[8] There is also active nest site protection to prevent predation and trampling of existing nests.[8] It has also been proposed on a number of occasions to include turtleways in the dams to allow turtles to get by these structures without being killed by the fall over the dam wall.[8]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Thomson S, Georges A, Limpus C. 2006. A New Species of Freshwater Turtle in the Genus Elseya (Testudines: Chelidae) from Central Coastal Queensland, Australia. Chelon. Conserv. Biol. 5 (1): 74–86. PDF fulltext
  2. ^ Fritz, Uwe; Havaš, Peter (2007). "Checklist of Chelonians of the World". Vertebrate Zoology 57 (2): 327–328. ISSN 18640-5755. Archived from the original on 2010-12-17. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  3. ^ Turtle Taxonomy Working Group [van Dijk PP, Iverson JB, Rhodin AGJ, Shaffer HB, Bour R]. 2014. Turtles of the world, 7th edition: annotated checklist of taxonomy, synonymy, distribution with maps, and conservation status. In: Rhodin AGJ, Pritchard PCH, van Dijk PP, Saumure RA, Buhlmann KA, Iverson JB, Mittermeier RA (Editors). Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. Chelonian Research Monographs 5 (7): 000.329–479, doi:10.3854/ crm.5.000.checklist.v7.2014.
  4. ^ The Reptile Database. www.reptile-database.org.
  5. ^ Goode J. 1967. Freshwater tortoises of Australia and New Guinea (in the family Chelidae). Melbourne: Landsdowne. 155 pp.
  6. ^ Georges A, Adams M. 1996. Electrophoretic delineation of species boundaries within the short-necked chelid turtles of Australia. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, London 118 :241–260.
  7. ^ a b c d Hamman, M., Schauble, C.S., Limpus, D., Emerick, S.P., and Limpus, C.J. (2007). Management plan for the conservation of Elseya sp. (Burnett River) in the Burnett River Catchment. Environmental Protection Agency.
  8. ^ a b c d e "White-throated snapping turtle". Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (Queensland Government). 2011-02-28. Retrieved 2014-07-30. 

External links[edit]