Indian flapshell turtle

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Indian flapshell turtle
Lissemys punctata1.jpg
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Family: Trionychidae
Genus: Lissemys
Species: L. punctata
Binomial name
Lissemys punctata
(Lacépède, 1788)
Lissemys punctata punctata
  • Testudo punctata Lacépède, 1788
  • Testudo granulosa Suckow, 1798
  • Testudo scabra Latreille, 1801
  • Testudo granosa Schoepff, 1801
  • Testudo granulata Daudin, 1801
  • Trionyx coromandelicus Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1809
  • Trionyx granosus Schweigger, 1812
  • Trionyx (Emyda) punctatus Gray, 1831
  • Emyda punctata Gray, 1831
  • Trionyx punctata Gray, 1832
  • Cryptopus granosus Duméril & Bibron, 1835
  • Emyda vittata Peters, 1854
  • Emyda ceylonensis Gray, 1856
  • Emyda granosa Strauch, 1862
  • Emyda dura Anderson, 1876 (nomen nudum)
  • Emyda [granosa] granosa Siebenrock, 1909
  • Emyda granosa ceylonensis Annandale, 1912
  • Emyda granosa intermedia Annandale, 1912
  • Lissemys punctata punctata Smith, 1931
  • Lissemys punctata granosa Smith, 1931
  • Trionyx punctatus granosus Mertens, Müller & Rust, 1934
  • Trionyx punctatus punctatus Mertens, Müller & Rust, 1934
  • Lissemys punctata garnosa Rhodes & Dadd, 1968 (ex errore)
Lissemys punctata andersoni
  • Lissemys punctata andersoni Webb, 1980
  • Lissemys punctata andersonii Artner, 2003 (ex errore)
  • Lissemys andersoni Joseph-Ouni, 2004

Indian flapshell turtle (Lissemys punctata) is a fresh water species of turtle found in South Asia. The “Flap-shelled” name stems from the presence of femoral flaps that are located on the plastron. These flaps of skin serve the purpose of covering the limbs when they retract into the shell. It is unclear what protection the flaps offer against predators.[2] They are widespread and common in the South Asian provinces.


The carapace of Lissemys punctata viewed from above is broadly oval in adults but more circular in young, widest just anterior to hind limbs. The width of disc 77-86 per cent of its length; carapace moderately arched, shell height 35-40.5 per cent of carapace length; margin of carapace smooth, slightly flared posteriorly; marginal bones not united with pleurals; plastron large but mostly cartilaginous, its length 88-97.5 per cent of carapace length; pair of large flaps that can be closed over hind limbs and smaller flap over tail; seven plastral callosities; head large, its width 21.5-25 per cent of carapace width; proboscis short and stout; nasal septum without lateral ridge; edges of jaws smooth, alveolar surfaces expanded and granular; claws large and heavy; penis thick, oval, with deep dorsal cleft and four pointed, soft papillae; tail very short in both sexes.[3]

Indian flap shell turtle kept at the MCBT

The carapace length of the Lissemys punctata has been known to range anywhere from 240-370mm in length.[4][5]


The Indian flap-shelled turtle was placed in Appendix I of CITES in 1975 at the request of Bangladesh. However, L. p. punctata was the taxa listed, not L. p. andersoni. Subsequent reviews of the literature and available data could find no evidence to support this endangered status. Some scientists now classify L. p. punctata and L. p. andersoni as a single subspecies. This subspecies is the most common aquatic turtle in India. Consequently, the Indian flap-shelled turtle was removed from the endangered species list in 1983 (48 FR 52740). This action however did not affect the turtle's status on Appendix I of CITES.[6]


The Indian Flap-shelled Turtle is found in Pakistan, India (common in lakes and rivers), Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh (Indus and Ganges drainages), Burma (Irrawaddy and Salween rivers). Lissemys punctata has been introduced to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

It is also found in the desert ponds of Rajasthan where hundreds are killed every year during the dry summers. The race andersoni is found in Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan.

Type locality: "Des grandes Indes" (= continental India); restricted to "Pondicherry, Coromandel Coast, India" (11° 56'N; 79° 53'E, on the southeast coast of India) by Webb (1980).[7][8]

Habitat and ecology[edit]

  • Food

The Indian flapshell turtle is known to be omnivorous. Its diet has been known to consist of: frogs, fishes, shrimps, snails, aquatic vegetation, plant leaves, flowers, fruits, grasses and seeds.[4]

  • Habitat and environmental impact

Lissemys punctata lives in the shallow, quiet, often stagnant waters of rivers, streams, marshes, ponds, lakes and irrigation canals, and tanks. Waters with sand or mud bottoms are preferred.[9]

Prefers to inhabit shallow, muddy ditches, lakes, marshes, ponds and irrigation canals. Habitats with muddy or sandy bottoms are preferred because of the turtle’s tendency to burrow.[4] In a study done in Bangladesh it was found that the Lissemis punctata turtle plays an important role to reduce pollution in aquatic ecosystems by feeding on snails, insects and fragments of dead animals.[10]

  • Drought survival

These turtles have been known to be very well adapted, both morphologically and behaviorally to drought conditions. The turtle utilizes mainly burrowing and moving from water hole to water hole in order to avoid desiccation. The femoral flaps that cover the retracted legs serve to help the turtle survive dry conditions. During a time of drought, the turtles enter a time of estivation in an attempt to survive the dry conditions.[11] Although many turtles die during drought conditions, some turtles have been reported to survive up to 160 days.[4][11]


  • Courtship routines

The turtles become reproductively active at age 2 or 3. Courtship and mating behavior of these turtles is unique and was observed by P. Duda and K. Gupta in 1981. Courtship begins when the male begins stroking the female’s carapace with his neck and limbs extended. When receptive, the female faces the male with her neck extended and they will begin bobbing their heads vertically 3 or 4 times. This behavior is repeated 5-8 more times. Mating then begins when the female settles to the bottom and is mounted by the male. Near the end of mating, the male releases his grip and rotates to face the opposite direction from her. They remain attached in this position for as long as 15 minutes. During this time, the female may drag the male about. The pair then separates and copulation ends.[5]

  • Nesting

Nesting times occur during many periods in the year depending on habitat and location. Swampy areas with soil and exposure to sunlight are common nesting sites among these turtles. Eggs are usually laid 2 to 3 times per year in clutches of 2-16. These eggs are buried in soil for protection.[5]

Scientific interest and potential value[edit]

  • Medicinal value

The shell of this species is believed to be of medicinal value in both China and India. The shell is burnt and ground up with oil to produce a medicine in China that is used to treat certain types of skin diseases. In India, the shell is used to make a remedy that is believed to be a medicine for tuberculosis.[12]

Specific dangers and threats to species survival[edit]

  • Economic and environmental factors

In many South Asia provinces, freshwater turtles and their eggs are commonly used as a good source of food and protein. As a result, these turtles are often exploited as a source of profit. In Bangladesh and India, this is especially evident as the Indian Flap-shell turtle is larger and has more meat than other turtles in the area. The value of this meat along with the efforts in the conservation of this species has driven the price of meat higher and has led to an increase in the illegal international exploitation and killing of these animals.[12] Changes to the turtle's natural habitat by the construction of dams and barrages, cultivation along river banks and pollution are also major threats to the survival of this turtle.[4]

Care sheet and additional information[edit]

Indian flapshell turtle caresheet

Indian flapshell turtle caresheet alternate source


  1. ^ Fritz Uwe; Peter Havaš (2007). "Checklist of Chelonians of the World". Vertebrate Zoology 57 (2): 315–316. Archived from the original on 2010-12-17. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  2. ^ Franklin, Carl. 2007. Turtles: An Extraordinary Natural History 245 Million Years in the Making. Voyageur Press. 134-136.
  3. ^ Minton, S. A. Jr 1966 A contribution to the herpetology of West Pakistan. Bull. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist. 134(2)
  4. ^ a b c d e Environmental Information System (ENVIS) center of India. Zoological survey of India. Lissemis punctata.
  5. ^ a b c Ernst, C., Altenburg, R. and Barbour R. 1997. Turtles of the World. Netherlands Biodiversity Information Facility.
  6. ^ CRS Report for Congress.98-32:Endangered Species List Revisions:A Summary of Delisting and Downlisting (cont'd)Status
  7. ^ Webb, R.G. 1980 Gray, Hardwicke, Buchanan-Hamilton, and drawings of Indian softshell turtles (Family Trionychidae). Amphibia-Reptilia 1: 61-74
  8. ^ Webb, R.G. 1980 The identity of Testudo punctata Lacépède, 1788 (Testudines, Trionychidae). Bulletin du Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, (4) 2: 547-557
  9. ^ C.H. Ernst, R.G.M. Altenburg & R.W. Barbour, Turtles of the World Indian flapshell turtle
  10. ^ Hossain, L., Sarker, S. and Sarker, N. 2008. Ecology of spotted flaphshell turtle, Lissemys punctata (Lacepede, 1788) in Bangladesh. Department of Zoology, University of Dhaka. ECOPRINT. Vol. 15. 59-67.
  11. ^ a b Auffenberg, W. 1981. Behavior of Lissemys punctata in a drying lake in Rajasthan, India. Bombay. Vol. 78, no. 3. 487-493.
  12. ^ a b Moll, D. and Moll, E. 2004. The Ecology, Exploitation, and Conservation of River Turtles. Oxford University Press. 177-180.

Further reading[edit]

  • Akbar, M.,Mushtaq-ul-Hassan, M. and u-Nisa, Z. 2006. Distribution of Freshwater Turtles in Punjab, Pakistan. CJES. Vol. 4, no. 4. 142-146.
  • Asian Turtle Trade Working Group (2000). Lissemys punctata. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 12 May 2006.
  • Biswas, S.;Bhowmik, H. K. 1984 Range of Lissemys punctata punctata from the foot-hills of Siwaliks Hamadryad 9 (2): 10
  • Lacepède, B. G. E. 1788 Histoire Naturelle des Quadrupe des Ovipares et des Serpens. Vol.1. Imprimerie du Roi, Hôtel de Thou, Paris, xvii + 651 pp.
  • Verma, Anil K. and D. N. Sahi. 1998 Status, range extension and ecological notes on Indo-Gangetic flapshell turtle, Lissemys punctata andersoni (Testudines: Trionychidae) in Jammu shiwaliks, J&K State. Cobra. 34 (Oct.-Dec.):6-9
  • Webb, R.G. 1982 Taxonomic notes concerning the trionychid turtle Lissemys punctata (Lacepede) Amphibia-Reptilia (Wiesbaden) 3(2-3): 179-184.

External links[edit]