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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Species Fact Profile: Arrau (Podocnemis expansa)

Arrau (South American River Turtle)
Podocnemis expansa (Schweigger, 1812)

Range: Northern South America
Habitat: Rivers, Lagoons, Flooded Forests
Diet: Fruits, Flowers, Aquatic Plants, Carrion
Social Grouping: Breeding congregations
Reproduction: Congregate in large numbers on sandbanks to nest (similar to sea turtles) at the end of the dry season.  Lay 75-120 eggs in a nest in the sand, some distance from the water's edge.  The eggs of one clutch may be sired by multiple fathers.  Eggs hatch after incubation period of about 45 days
Lifespan: 25 Years
Conservation Status: IUCN Least Concern, CITES Appendix II

  • Largest of the side-necked turtles and the largest turtle in South America, maximum weight 90 kilograms, length 89 centimeters.  Females are considerably larger than males
  • Wide, flat shell is gray-brown or black, skin is brown, gray, or olive green.  Orange or red marks on top of the head; juveniles may have yellow spotting which fades with age.  Two small barbels on the chin.  Males differ from females in having flatter shells and longer tails
  • The long neck cannot be completely retracted into the shell; instead, it is wrapped horizontally, leaving the side of the neck exposed
  • Mutual cleaning has been observed, with turtles taking turns eating algae off of each others' shells
  • Juveniles may be preyed upon by wading birds, caiman, and large fish.  Adults have few predators, but may be taken by jaguars or large crocodilians
  • Historically they have been heavily exploited for food, especially their eggs.  Legally protected today but still poached.  In some areas, conservationists collect eggs, hatch them in captivity, and head-start the young
  • Some attempts have been made at commercial farming, which is complicated by the slow growth rate

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