African helmeted turtle
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2011)|
|African helmeted turtle|
|In southern Madagascar|
The African helmeted turtle also known as the marsh terrapin or crocodile turtle (Pelomedusa subrufa), is typically a rather small turtle, with most individuals being less than 20 cm in carapace length, but one has been recorded with a carapace length of 32.5 cm. It has a black or brown carapace (shell). The tops of the tail and limbs are a grayish brown, while the underside is yellowish. The male turtle is distinguished by its long, thick tail. A female tends to have a shorter tail and a broader carapace. A hatchling has a shell size of about 1.2 inches in length, and is olive to black in color. It also has two small tubercles under the chin and musk glands in the sides of the carapace. The African helmeted turtle does not have a hinged plastron (lower shell). All the other species in the family Pelomedusidae, however, have this feature which they can, using muscles, close to cover their heads and front limbs.
The African helmeted turtle is omnivorous and will eat almost anything. Some of the main items in its diet are insects, small crustaceans, fish, earthworms, and snails. It may also feed on carrion. The fine claws on its feet help it tear its prey apart. Groups of these turtles have been observed capturing and drowning larger prey such as doves when they come to drink; the commotion caused by these group attacks are often mistaken for crocodiles.
Habitat and distribution
The range of P. subrufa covers a large portion of Africa. It can be found as far west as Ghana and as far south as Cape Town. It has also been found in Madagascar and Yemen. They are semiaquatic animals, living in rivers, lakes, and marshes, and they also occupy rain pools and places that are fertilized.
Courtship is held year round. The male will follow the female, nodding his head in front of hers. If she is not responsive, she will nip and snap and walk away. If she is willing, she responses by nodding her head or just standing still, so he can sit onto her. While mating both of the turtles shake their head.
The female will lay two to 10 eggs on average, normally during late spring and early summer. The eggs are placed in a flask-shaped nest about 4 to 7 in deep. The eggs hatch in 75– 90 days.
- Pelusios sinuatus, a similar species
- Fritz Uwe; Peter Havaš (2007). "Checklist of Chelonians of the World". Vertebrate Zoology 57 (2): 344–346. Archived from the original on 2010-12-17. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
- Richard C. Boycott and Ortwin Bourquin: The southern African Toirtoise Book – A Guide to southern African Tortoises, Terrapins and Turtles, O. Bourqin, KiwaZulu-Natal 2000, ISBN 0-620-26536-1
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Pelomedusa subrufa.|