|Closeup of head, showing white throat|
The species is endemic to south-eastern Queensland, Australia, 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, algae, and large aquatic plants.
First proposed as a species by John Goode in the 1960s, it was finally described in 2006. 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.
The type locality for the species is the Burnett River in south-eastern Queensland, but it is also found in the Mary and Fitzroy River drainages to the north of the Burnett. Some have argued for each of these rivers to represent different species, but DNA, morphological, and morphometric analyses does not support this conclusion.
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.
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. 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. The head is typically dark brown to grey above and, in females, is usually blotched with cream to white in the throat region.
White-throated snapping turtles are amongst a handful of other turtle and fish species in that they can undertake cloacal respiration, absorbing oxygen from the surrounding environment through their cloaca whilst submerged.
Three major factors affect 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. 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 temperatures within the river, affecting reproduction. It also affects the remodeling of sand banks during flood events, eventually leading to unusable nesting sites. The populations are aging, meaning that larger numbers of adults have little recruitment. The last factor is the damage to individuals as they get washed over dam walls to their deaths.
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. Also active nest site protection prevents predation and trampling of existing nests. "Turtleways" have been proposed in the dams to allow turtles to get by these structures without being killed by the fall over the dam wall.
- 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 Archived 2007-08-29 at the Wayback Machine
- Fritz, Uwe; Havaš, Peter (2007). "Checklist of Chelonians of the World" (PDF). Vertebrate Zoology. 57 (2): 327–328. ISSN 1864-5755. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-12-17. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
- 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.
- The Reptile Database. www.reptile-database.org.
- Goode J. 1967. Freshwater tortoises of Australia and New Guinea (in the family Chelidae). Melbourne: Landsdowne. 155 pp.
- 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.
- Platt, John R. "Butt-Breathing Turtle Now Critically Endangered". Scientific American Blog Network. Retrieved 2017-08-19.
- 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.
- "White-throated snapping turtle". Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (Queensland Government). 2011-02-28. Retrieved 2014-07-30.
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