Cantor's giant softshell turtle

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Cantor's giant softshell turtle
Pelochelys cantorii.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Sauropsida
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Family: Trionychidae
Genus: Pelochelys
Species: P. cantorii
Binomial name
Pelochelys cantorii[1]
Gray, 1864[1][2]
  • Pelochelys cantorii Gray, 1864
  • Pelochelys cumingii Gray, 1864
  • Pelochelys cantoris Boulenger, 1889
  • Pelochelys poljakowii Strauch, 1890
  • Pelochelys cummingii Smith, 1931 (ex errore)
  • Pelochelys cantori Pritchard, 1967 (ex errore)

Cantor's giant softshell turtle or Asian giant softshell turtle (Pelochelys cantorii)[1] is a species of freshwater turtle. The turtle has a broad head and small eyes close to the tip of its snout. The carapace is smooth and olive-colored. Juveniles may have dark-spotted carapaces and heads, with yellow around the carapace.[4]

Despite reports that the Cantor's giant softshell turtles can grow up to 6 ft (about 2 m) in length and is the world's largest extant freshwater turtle, this maximum size and title is murky at best.[5][6] Apparently the largest specimen carapace length, 129 cm (51 in), known is considered suspect and the heaviest specimen known (weighing approximately 250 kg (550 lb) was actually a misidentified Yangtze giant softshell turtle.[7][8] A more realistic range of carapace length for this species is reportedly 70 to 100 cm (28 to 39 in) and it is one of about a half-dozen giant softshell turtles from three genera that reach exceptionally large sizes, i.e. in excess of 100 kg (220 lb) in mass.[9] P. cantorii an ambush predator and primarily carnivorous, feeding on crustaceans, mollusks and fish (although some aquatic plants may also be eaten).[4] The turtle spends 95% of its life buried and motionless, with only its eyes and mouth protruding from the sand. It surfaces only twice a day to take a breath, and lays 20–28 eggs (about 1.2 to 1.4 in [3.0–3.5 cm] in diameter) in February or March on riverbanks.[4][6][10]

The turtle is named after Theodore Edward Cantor.[11]


The turtle is found primarily in inland, slow-moving, freshwater rivers and streams. Some evidence indicates its range extends to coastal areas, as well.[4]

The turtle is found in eastern and southern India, Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, eastern and southern China, Singapore (extirpated), the Philippines (Luzon and Mindanao), and Indonesia (Kalimantan, Java, and Sumatra).[1]

The turtle is regarded as endangered, and has disappeared from much of its range. Prior to 2007, it was last seen in Cambodia in 2003. A 2007 survey of one area of the Mekong River in Cambodia found the turtle in abundance along a 48-km (30-mi) stretch of the river.[6][12]


Cantor's giant softshell turtle is not found in New Guinea, while the two other members of the genus Pelochelys, P. bibroni and P. signifera are both restricted to New Guinea.[1]P. cantorii is relatively unstudied, and the current species may actually be composed of several taxa.[4] One study from 1995[13] showed what was once thought to be P. cantorii in New Guinea was actually P. bibroni, and the earlier studies[14] of P. cantorii only described populations further to the west.


In the Philippines, a juvenile Cantor’s turtle known as “cagot" appeared and was captured by a fisherman along the Addalam River, Cabarroguis, Quirino, Isabela. In 2001, this turtle was sent to Chicago, and later confirmed to be an endangered turtle species.[15][16]

Morphological differences on neural bone count has been noted among specimens found in the Philippines and mainland Asia.[17]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Rhodin 2011, p. 000.187
  2. ^ a b Pelochelys cantorii from the IUCN Red list
  3. ^ Fritz 2007, pp. 317–318
  4. ^ a b c d e Ernst, Barbour, and Altenburg, Turtles of the World, 1998.
  5. ^ "Rare Soft Shell Turtle, Nesting Ground Found in Cambodia," ScienceDaily, May 19, 2007.
  6. ^ a b c Mydans, "How to Survive in Cambodia: For a Turtle, Beneath Sand," New York Times, May 18, 2007.
  7. ^ De Rooij, N. (1915). The reptiles of the Indo-Australian archipelago. A. Asher.
  8. ^ Pritchard, P. C. H. (2005). Survival status and prospects for Rafetus swinhoei (Chelonia: Trionychidae). In 2005 Turtle Survival Alliance Annual Conference Proceedings (pp. 19-22).
  9. ^ Das, I. (2008). Pelochelys cantorii Gray 1864- Asian Giant Softshell Turtle. Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: Chelonian Research Monograph, No. 5.
  10. ^ Das, Indian Turtles: A Field Guide, 1985.
  11. ^ Beolens B, Watkins M, Grayson M. 2011. The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. ("Pelochelys cantori [sic]", p. 47).
  12. ^ Munthit, "Rare Turtle's New Chance," Associated Press, May 16, 2007.
  13. ^ Webb, "Redescription and neotype designation of Pelochelys bibroni from southern New Guinea (Testudines: Trionychidae)," Chelonian Conserv. & Biol., 1995.
  14. ^ For example, Gray, "Revision of the species of Trionychidae found in Asia and Africa, with descriptions of some new species," Proc. Zool. Soc. London, 1864, and Boulenger, "On the occurrence of Pelochelys in China," Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist, 1891.
  15. ^, After seven years, rare soft-shelled turtle resurfaces in Quirino Province
  16. ^, After seven years, rare soft-shelled turtle resurfaces in Quirino Province
  17. ^!po=0.666667
  • Baur, G. (1891) "Notes on the trionychian genus Pelochelys." Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (6) 7: 445–447.
  • Boulenger, G.A. (1891) "On the occurrence of Pelochelys in China." Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (6) 7: 283–284.
  • Das, Indraneil. Indian Turtles: A Field Guide. Calcutta: World Wildlife Fund-India (Eastern Region), 1985.
  • Ernst, Carl H.; Barbour, Roger W.; and Altenburg, R.G.M. Turtles of the World. Rev. paperback ed. New York: Springer-Verlag New York, LLC, 1998. ISBN 3-540-14547-8 Accessed May 18, 2007.
  • McCord, William P.and Joseph-Ouni, Mehdi. (2003) "Flapshell and Giant Asian Softshell Turtles." Reptilia. 26:59–64.
  • Mydans, Seth. "How to Survive in Cambodia: For a Turtle, Beneath Sand." New York Times. May 18, 2007.
  • Gray, J.E. (1864) "Revision of the species of Trionychidae found in Asia and Africa, with descriptions of some new species." Proc. Zool. Soc. London. 1864: 76–98.
  • Munthit, Ker. "Rare Turtle's New Chance." Associated Press. May 16, 2007.
  • Webb, R.G. (1995) "Redescription and neotype designation of Pelochelys bibroni from southern New Guinea (Testudines: Trionychidae)." Chelonian Conserv. & Biol. 1: 301–310.
  • Webb, Robert G. (2002) "Observations on the Giant Softshell Turtle, Pelochelys cantorii, with description of a new species." Hamadryad. 27 (1): 99–107.

Further reading[edit]

Das, Indraneil; Lakim, Maklarin (December 2006). "On the Distribution of Pelochelys cantorii on Borneo". Chelonian Conservation and Biology 5 (2): 323–325. doi:10.2744/1071-8443(2006)5[323:OTDOPC]2.0.CO;2. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Pelochelys cantorii at Wikimedia Commons