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Mary river turtle
the mary river turtle, elusor macrurus, is an endangered short-necked turtle that is endemic to the mary river in south-east queensland, australia.
the mary river turtle is one of australia's largest turtles. specimens in excess of 50 cm in carapace length have been recorded.
overall colour can vary from rusty red to brown and almost black. the plastron varies from cream to pale pink. the skin colouration is similar to that of the shell and often has salmon pink present on the tail and limbs. the iris can be pale blue. mary river turtles use bimodal respiration, so are capable of absorbing oxygen via the cloaca whilst under water. however, they do regularly come to the surface to breathe air in the usual way.
a unique feature of the male mary river turtle is the tail, which can measure almost two-thirds of the carapace length. the tail has haemal arches, a feature lost in all other modern turtles. it is probably a derived feature, but its function is not understood.
another unique feature is the exceptionally long barbels under the mandible. proportionately, the mary river turtle has the smallest head and largest hind feet of all the species within the catchment, which contributes to its distinction of being the fastest swimmer.
the international conservation body iucn lists it as endangered on the iucn red list. it is australia's second-most endangered freshwater turtle species, after the western swamp turtle (pseudemydura umbrina) of western australia. mary river turtles are also listed in the world's top 25 most endangered turtle species.
image ©chris van wyk