Keeled box turtle

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Keeled box turtle
C. m. mouhotii
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Sauropsida
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Superfamily: Testudinoidea
Family: Geoemydidae
Subfamily: Geoemydinae
Genus: Cuora
Species: C. mouhotii
Binomial name
Cuora mouhotii
Gray, 1862
C. m. mouhotii
  • Cyclemys mouhotii Gray, 1862
  • Pyxidea mouhotii Gray, 1863
  • Emys mouhotii Strauch, 1865
  • Cyclemys mouhoti Boulenger, 1890 (ex errore)
  • Pyxidea mouhoti Smith, 1931
  • Emys mouhoti Bourret, 1941
  • Pyxidea mouboti Smith & James, 1958 (ex errore)
  • Geoemyda mouhoti McDowell, 1964
  • Cyclemys mouheti Tikader & Sharma, 1985 (ex errore)
  • Geoemyda mouhotii Artner, 1995
  • Pyxidea mouhotii mouhotii Fritz, Andreas & Lehr, 1998
  • Pyxidea mouhotti Hallermann, Dirksen & Uetz, 1999 (ex errore)
  • Cuora mouhotii mouhotii Artner, 2003
C. m. obsti
  • Pyxidea mouhotii obsti Fritz, Andreas & Lehr, 1998
  • Pyxidea mouhotti obsti Hallermann, Dirksen & Uetz, 1999
  • Cuora mouhotii obsti Artner, 2003

The keeled box turtle (Cuora mouhotii syn. Pyxidea mouhotii) is a species of turtle in the family Geoemydidae. It is native to Asia, where it occurs in China, India, Laos, Burma, Vietnam,[2] Thailand, and Bhutan.[3] Other common names include keel-backed terrapin and jagged-shelled turtle.[2]


This turtle is sometimes treated as the sole species of the monotypic genus Pyxidea.[2][4][5] Phylogenetic analysis using mitochondrial DNA has provided evidence that the species is part of the "Cuora group", a monophyletic group of Asian box turtles, and the name Pyxidea should probably be synonymized with Cuora, making the keeled box turtle part of that genus.[6] Other phylogenetic studies of Cuora support this conclusion.[7] In addition, its morphology is not distinct enough from that of Cuora species to keep it separate, and it is known to hybridize with Cuora galbinifrons.[7]

There are two subspecies, C. m. mouhotii and C. m. obsti.[2][3][8]

The Southern Vietnamese population of Cuora mouhotii lives alongside Cuora picturata. Since Cuora mouhotii is known to hybridize with the closest living relatives of Cuora picturata (Cuora galbinifrons and Cuora bourreti) there is a possibility of hybridization in the wild between these two populations.[9]


The keeled box turtles upper shell has three large, raised ridges and is serrated on the back end. The lower shell of the Keeled Box Turtle is different variations of brown in color ranging from light brown to dark brown. The upper jaw of the turtle is strong while the snout is short and curved. The turtle’s feet are only partially webbed. The partially webbed feet suggest a terrestrial lifestyle as opposed to an aquatic one. Male and female Keeled Box Turtles can be distinguished by the color of their eyes as well as their nails. A male Keeled Box Turtle generally has longer and thicker nails than a female Keeled Box Turtle, and eyes that are either black or brown. A female Keeled Box Turtle generally has shorter, thinner nails and their eyes are orange or red.[10]


The biology of the species is not well known.[11]

In one survey, males and females had an average carapace length around 15 to 17 centimeters. The breeding season is in May through September. The average clutch size was four eggs, which are smooth, white, and about 4.4 centimeters long. On average they typically lay two clutches in a breeding season. Like many other turtles the keeled box turtle does not care for its young. Females have been noted to dig nests with their rear legs and cover the clutches with soil, and also to lay eggs under fallen leaves.[11]

The male keeled box turtle is very aggressive during the act of mating. In some instances the male turtle will chase and injure a female. The male will often persist until the female allows its advances.

They are herbivorous, and eat wide variation of vegetation in the natural environment, with a preference for wild fallen fruits. They will also occasionally eat worms snails and other meat.[11]

The keeled box turtle is a terrestrial species, and can be frequently found in small caves and rock crevices. It can also be found in forests, in deep layers of leaves.


This turtle is listed as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).[2]

The population of the keeled box turtle has been on a steep decline in some areas, particularly Vietnam. This can be attributed to people capturing them for food and pets, as well as Vietnam legally exporting large numbers. Although there are other possible reasons behind this population decline, deforestation and hunting have proven to be a major threat to these turtles especially.

Threats include habitat destruction and degradation during deforestation. In parts of its range it is threatened by overexploitation as it is collected from the wild, especially for food.[12] It is also used in traditional medicine.[13] It is consumed locally and traded internationally for in the food market and the pet trade.[12]

In China the species is bred in captivity on a small scale for the pet trade.[12]



  1. ^ Fritz, U. and P. Havaš. (2007). Checklist of chelonians of the world. Vertebrate Zoology 57(2) 149-368.
  2. ^ a b c d e Asian Turtle Trade Working Group. 2000. Cuora mouhotii. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.1. Downloaded on 20 October 2013.
  3. ^ a b Cuora mouhotii. The Reptile Database.
  4. ^ Pyxidea mouhotii. Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS).
  5. ^ Zhang, L., et al. (2008). The complete mitochondrial genome of the keeled box turtle Pyxidea mouhotii and phylogenetic analysis of major turtle groups. Journal of Genetics and Genomics 35(1), 33-40.
  6. ^ Honda, M., et al. (2002). Phylogenetic relationships of the Asian box turtles of the genus Cuora sensu lato (Reptilia: Bataguridae) inferred from mitochondrial DNA sequences. Zoological Science 19, 1305-12.
  7. ^ a b Stuart, B. L. and J. F. Parham. (2004). Molecular phylogeny of the critically endangered Indochinese box turtle (Cuora galbinifrons). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 31(1), 164-77.
  8. ^ Fritz, U., et al. (1998). Eine neue Unterart der Dreikiel-Scharnierschildkröte, Pyxidea mouhotii (Gray, 1862). Zool. Abh. Mus. Tierkd. Dresden 50, 33-43
  9. ^ Ly, Tri, Huy Duc Hoang, and Bryan L. Stewart. "Occurrence of the endangered keeled box turtle, Cuora mouhotii, in Southern Vietnam." N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2013. <>.
  10. ^ "Keeled box turtle (Cuora mouhotii)." Keeled box turtle videos, photos and facts. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Oct. 2013. <>."
  11. ^ a b c Ji-Chao, W., et al. (2011). Reproduction and nesting of the endangered keeled box turtle (Cuora mouhotii) on Hainan Island, China. Chelonian Conservation and Biology 10(2), 159-64.
  12. ^ a b c Inclusion of Pyxidea mouhotii in Appendix II in accordance with Article II 2(a) of the Convention, and satisfying Resolution Conf. 9.24, Annex 2a, Criteria A and Bi). Proposal 28. CITES. Twelfth meeting of the Conference of the Parties. Santiago, Chile, 3-15 November 2002.
  13. ^ da Nóbrega Alves, R. R., et al. (2008). Reptiles used in traditional folk medicine: conservation implications. Biodiversity and Conservation 17(8), 2037-49.

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