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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Species Fact Profile: Pig-Nosed Turtle (Carettochelys insculpta)

Pig-Nosed Turtle (Fly River Turtle)
Carettochelys insculpta (Ramsay, 1886)

Range: Southern New Guinea, Northwestern Australia
Habitat: Rivers, Lagoons
Diet: Mollusks, Fish, Crustaceans, Fruit, Aquatic Plants
Social Grouping: Solitary
Reproduction: Females nest between July and October at night, sometimes in groups; nest pit dug with hind limbs, up to 50 centimeters deep.  Eggs are 4 centimeters in diameter and weight 35 grams – incubation period is 64-102 days, with rising water stimulating eggs to hatch.  Hatchlings are 5-6 centimeters long.  Temperature for sexual differentiation is 31.5 degrees Celsius (higher temperatures females, lower males).  Females usually nest twice per year.
Lifespan: 35 Years (Captivity)
Conservation Status: IUCN Vulnerable, CITES Appendix II

  • Largest Australian turtle – maximum length of 70 centimeters, maximum weight of 30 kilograms; males are generally slightly smaller with a  longer, thicker tail
  •  Resembles a sea turtle in having flippers instead of webbed feet for limbs (males have two claws on edges of anterior flippers); also only turtle species in world to have thick, pig-like snout (responsible for one of common names), which can be used as a snorkel while swimming
  • Color ranges from silver-gray to brown-black, with light spots on carapace; ventral surface is creamy yellow or pink
  • Can tolerate brackish or saltwater, and sometimes seen out at sea or nesting on beaches alongside sea turtles
  •  Rarely leaves water (never seen basking on sandbanks or rocks), has difficulty moving on land; normally leaves the water only to nest
  • Primarily nocturnal, using snout (which is equipped with sensory receptors) to probe for food in mud at the bottom of the water
  •  Home ranges may be up to 10 kilometers of river (larger than other freshwater turtles)
  • Crocodiles are major predators, but nests and hatchling are also threatened by feral buffalo, which may trample the nests
  •  Desired as food source due to large size and tasty meat, especially in New Guinea, where eggs are also collected extensively

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