New Guinea giant softshell turtle
|New Guinea giant softshell turtle|
The New Guinea giant softshell turtle (Pelochelys bibroni) is a species of softshell turtle in the Trionychidae family. It is referred to by the Suki people as kiya eise, a reference to its flexible shell. In the Arammba language, it is called sokrere, meaning "earthquake". It is sometimes hunted by local villages for its meat and/or eggs, leading to some cases of chelonitoxism.
P. bibroni prefers lowland rivers and estuaries, but adjusts well to the saline environments of deltas and large estuaries. Its diet is primarily carnivorous, consuming mostly fish, crabs, mollusks, and occasionally some vegetation. Its hunting strategy is not overly aggressive, but primarily being an ambush predator, it spends most of its time at the bottom of its chosen river bed, waiting for prey to wander by.
Nesting usually occurs in September, often on the same beaches as the pig-nosed turtle. The 22-45 eggs in a clutch are often found in the nests of crocodiles. This is possibly a strategy to avoid nest predation.
P. bibroni ranges from southern China to West Papua (Indonesia) and Papua New Guinea, but may also be found in Australia and the Philippines. It has recently gone extinct in the Mekong and Chao Phraya River basins.
It has a soft, subdermal carapace with a slightly flexible posterior region. Its neck is completely retractable, as are all four of its limbs. Its head is broad, with its nostrils at the end of a proboscis. Its digits are webbed, with eight digits on its fore limbs and five on its hind limbs. Its tail is very short.
Though the species is known to use deep, freshwater rivers as its primary habitat, the species may show some saltwater tolerance due to its wide geographical range.
P. bibroni is believed to be a species of marine turtle that, upon consumption during certain seasons of the year, can lead to the phenomenon of chelonitoxism in a person. This may be due to certain phases in the turtle's diet.
P. Bibroni has a natural predator in the saltwater crocodile, but its current status as a threatened species stems from human activity. Locals often hunt the animal for its meat and eggs, and tribal masks can be crafted from its carapace. No commercial hunting is present, however.
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