Overview

Brief Summary

Summary

Carettochelys insculpta, the pig-nosed turtle (Family Carettochelyidae), is the sole surviving member of a family of turtles that was widely distributed during the Tertiary. It is restricted to the southern rivers of New Guinea and the rivers of the Northern Territory in Australia. Carettochelys is therefore a distinctive geographic and taxonomic relict and, although locally abundant, it is rare in the sense of being geographically restricted. Moreover, Carettochelys is unique or unusual among turtles in many facets of its morphology, ecology, and behavior. Populations in New Guinea are thought to be declining because of increased exploitation for meat and eggs for both domestic consumption and the international pet trade. This exploitation has been exacerbated in recent times by the introduction of modern technology, principally outboard motors. In addition, clan warfare has ceased, and people have moved from the hinterland to more convenient locations along river banks. Moreover, levels of commercial activity such as logging, mining and exploration for oil, gold, and copper and fishing have increased in recent times, bringing larger human populations, both indigenous and non-indigenous, into closer contact with turtle populations. In Australia, feral animals have posed a threat through widespread trampling of nesting banks and destruction of riparian habitat. Other potential pressures include aggressive pastoral and agricultural practices that push the land in the important catchments beyond capability. Such agricultural development, if not accompanied by appropriate and effective land management, can result in erosion, destruction of riparian vegetation, siltation of water courses, reduction and altered timing and duration of dry season environmental flows, which can lead to gross degradation of riverine habitat as we have seen in the southern states of Australia. Urgent research is required to determine trends in population numbers and levels of exploitation in New Guinea, and to identify and implement management options for the sustainable exploitation of Carettochelys. In Australia, improved knowledge of the distribution of Carettochelys is required, especially the status of populations in the Victoria River, so that the value of the two known major populations in the Daly River and Alligator Rivers region can be adequately assessed. Wet-season habitat requirements, extent of seasonal movements, and requirements of juveniles are unknown, yet this information is needed to gauge the possible impact of proposed or potential development within catchments and to gauge the adequacy of existing reserves for protecting the species.
  • Georges, A., Doody, J.S., Eisemberg, C., Alacs, E.A., and Rose, M. 2008. Carettochelys insculpta Ramsay 1886 – pig-nosed turtle, Fly River turtle. In: Rhodin, A.G.J., Pritchard, P.C.H., van Dijk, P.P., Saumure, R.A., Buhlmann, K.A., and Iverson, J.B. (Eds.). Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. Chelonian Research Monographs No. 5, pp. 009.1-009.17, doi:10.3854/crm.5.009.insculpta.v1.2008, http://www.iucn-tftsg.org/cbftt./cbftt
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Distribution

Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea. Distributed in the southern lowlands of Indonesian Papua and Papua New Guinea, and northwestern Northern Territory, Australia.
  • Georges, A., Doody, J.S., Eisemberg, C., Alacs, E.A., and Rose, M. 2008. Carettochelys insculpta Ramsay 1886 – pig-nosed turtle, Fly River turtle. In: Rhodin, A.G.J., Pritchard, P.C.H., van Dijk, P.P., Saumure, R.A., Buhlmann, K.A., and Iverson, J.B. (Eds.). Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. Chelonian Research Monographs No. 5, pp. 009.1-009.17, doi:10.3854/crm.5.009.insculpta.v1.2008, http://www.iucn-tftsg.org/cbftt./cbftt
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Geographic Range

Carettochelys insculpta is known to inhabit the Fly, Morehead, Lorentz, Stekwa, and Strickland rivers and Lake Jamur in Papua New Guinea. Carettochelys insculpta also is found in the Northern Territory of Australia in such locations as the Alligator, Daly, and Victoria drainages. Carettochelys insculpta seems to prefer the coastal temperate regions of northern Australia (Ernst & Barbour 1989).

Biogeographic Regions: australian (Native )

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Continent: Asia Australia
Distribution: Papua New Guinea (Fly, Strickland, Morehead, Lorentz, Stekwa rivers, Lake Jamur),  Australia (Daly, Victoria, Alligator drainages in the Northern Territory)  
Type locality: Fly River, Papua New Guinea.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Carettochelys insculpta somewhat resembles a marine turtle due to its front limbs having a paddle-like appearance with two claws on each. Carettochelys insculpta also has characteristics that resemble that of the family Trionychidae, with a soft tissue covering over its carapace and lacking scutes. The carapace can reach 55cm in length and be very domed. Its coloration can range from a very light gray to olive in color. Creamy to white blotches may border the lower portion of the carapace. The bridge and plastron are white in color with the remainder of the body being closely matching the coloration to the caparace except for a pale streak behind the eye.

Hatchling Carettochelys insculpta have a slightly lighter coloration and the carapace has a very distinct knobby keel and serrated border.

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Terrestrial nest sites

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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Carettochelys insculpta likes to inhabit bodies of water that contain water year round such as larger bays, estuaries and rivers especially large wholes and lagoons on river systems. The majority of the sightings of Carettochelys insculpta have been in fresh water but it is known to venture into coastal waters to forage for food.

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams; coastal

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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Carettochelys insculpta is known to prefer the fruits of pandanus and figs but it will feed on mollusks, worms, and crustaceans.

Animal Foods: mollusks; terrestrial worms; aquatic crustaceans

Plant Foods: fruit

Primary Diet: omnivore

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Life History and Behavior

Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Average lifespan

Sex: female

Status: captivity:
17.3 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 38.4 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

Carettochelys insculpta is known to nest through the season of September through November. Its nesting habits also seem to resemble some marine turtles in that Carettochelys insculpta is a evening and night nester. Around dark the females crawl onto sandbanks to build their nests. The nests are very shallow (6-21cm) and in this nest the female deposits up to 30 eggs, they are round, smooth, and brittle shelled with a diameter of 38-40 mm. The incubation period is approximately three and half to four months in length, after this time the tiny (57mm) hatchlings emerge. Another interesting fact about Carettochelys insculpta is that the offspring are temperature sex determined, with females developing in hot nest and males developing in cool nest. If nest temperature varies, hatchling sex will vary in that nest.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Carettochelys insculpta

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


No available public DNA sequences.

Download FASTA File
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Carettochelys insculpta

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
A1bd

Version
2.3

Year Assessed
2000
  • Needs updating

Assessor/s
Asian Turtle Trade Working Group

Reviewer/s
Buhlmann, K., Rhodin, A. & van Dijk, P.P. (Tortoise & Freshwater Turtle Red List Authority)

Contributor/s

History
  • 1996
    Vulnerable
  • 1994
    Insufficiently Known
    (Groombridge 1994)
  • 1990
    Insufficiently Known
    (IUCN 1990)
  • 1988
    Insufficiently Known
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
  • 1986
    Insufficiently Known
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
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Status

IUCN 2007 Red List: Vulnerable (VU A1bd) (assessed 2000); CITES: Appendix II; Australian EPBC Act: Not Listed; Northern Territory PWC Act: Near Threatened.
  • Georges, A., Doody, J.S., Eisemberg, C., Alacs, E.A., and Rose, M. 2008. Carettochelys insculpta Ramsay 1886 – pig-nosed turtle, Fly River turtle. In: Rhodin, A.G.J., Pritchard, P.C.H., van Dijk, P.P., Saumure, R.A., Buhlmann, K.A., and Iverson, J.B. (Eds.). Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. Chelonian Research Monographs No. 5, pp. 009.1-009.17, doi:10.3854/crm.5.009.insculpta.v1.2008, http://www.iucn-tftsg.org/cbftt./cbftt
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Carettochelys insculpta is a very shy and elusive species. It was only recently discovered in Australia, and there is not much known about the population in Papua New Guinea. The most effective way to conserve this species and prevent its extinction will be to protect its habitat and prevent its exploitation.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable

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Threats

Major Threats
This species is exported in large numbers for the international live animal trade from southern Irian Jaya, Indonesia. It is heavily exploited and locally consumed in Papua New Guinea and endangered by habitat loss and degradation in Australia.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
It is listed on CITES Appendix II.
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Wikipedia

Pig-nosed turtle

The pig-nosed turtle (Carettochelys insculpta), also known as the pitted-shelled turtle or Fly River turtle, is a species of turtle native to northern Australia and southern New Guinea.

Systematics[edit]

This species is the only living member of the genus Carettochelys, the subfamily Carettochelyinae and the family Carettochelyidae, though several extinct carettochelyid species have been described from around the world. Some literature claims two subspecies, but a recent paper rejects this.[3]

Description[edit]

(video) Pig-nosed turtle swimming

The pig-nosed turtle is unlike any other species of freshwater turtle. The feet are flippers, resembling those of marine turtles. The nose looks like that of a pig, having the nostrils at the end of a fleshy snout, hence the common name. The carapace is typically grey or olive, with a leathery texture, while the plastron is cream-coloured. Males can be distinguished from females by their longer and narrower tails. Pig-nosed turtles can grow to about 70 cm (28 in) shell-length, with a weight of over 20 kg (44 lb).

C. insculpta in captivity

Unlike the soft shelled turtles of the family Trionychidae, pig-nosed turtles retain a domed bony carapace beneath their leathery skin, rather than a flat plate. They also retain a solid plastron, connected to the carapace by a strong bony bridge, rather than the soft margin of the trionychids.[4]

Behavior[edit]

Pig-nosed turtles are not completely aquatic. Little is known about general behaviour, as there have been few studies in the wild. Their known extreme aggression[5] in captivity suggests the species is markedly more territorial than most other turtles and tortoises. They seem to display a degree of social structure during the cooler dry season around the hydrothermal vents that line some river systems they inhabit.

Feeding[edit]

The species is omnivorous, eating a wide variety of plant and animal matter, including the fruit and leaves of figs, as well as crustaceans, molluscs and insects.

Breeding[edit]

Females reach maturity after 18 or more years old, and males around 16 years. They lay their eggs late in the dry season on sandy river banks. When the offspring are fully developed, they will stay inside the eggs in hibernation until conditions are suitable for emergence. Hatching may be triggered when the eggs have been flooded with water or by a sudden drop in air pressure signaling an approaching storm.

Using environmental triggers, along with vibrations created by other hatching turtles in the same clutch, gives a better chance for survival. Using a universal trigger rather than simply waiting for incubation to finish means they all hatch at the same time. This provides safety in numbers; also, the more turtles that hatch, the more help they have to dig through the sand to the surface.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The turtle is native to freshwater streams, lagoons and rivers of the Northern Territory of Australia, as well as to the island of New Guinea, where it is believed to occur in all the larger, and some smaller, southward-flowing rivers.[6]

Status and conservation[edit]

The species experienced a population decline of more than 50% in the thirty years between 1981 and 2011.[7] Although the turtles are protected in Indonesia under Law No. 5/1990 on Natural Resources and Ecosystems Conservation, smuggling occurs. Some 11,000 turtles captured from smugglers were released into their habitats in the Wania River, Papua Province, Indonesia, on 30 December 2010. In March 2009, more than 10,000 turtles retrieved from smugglers were also released into the Otakwa River in Lorentz National Park.[8] 687 pig-nosed turtles were seized at an Indonesian airport in March 2013. They were reportedly destined for Hong Kong.[9]

Captive care[edit]

Pig-nosed turtles have become available through the exotic pet trade, with a few instances of captive breeding. While juveniles are small and grow slowly, their high cost and large potential size makes them suitable only for experienced aquatic turtle keepers. They tend to be shy and prone to stress. They get sick easily, which can cause problems with their feeding, but they are known to eat commercially available processed turtle pellets or trout chow, as well as various fruits and vegetables. Breeding is rarely an option to the hobbyist, as adults are highly aggressive and will attack each other in all but the largest enclosures.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ramsay, E.P. 1886. On a new genus and species of fresh water tortoise from the Fly River, New Guinea. proceedings of the Linnaean Society of New South Wales. (2)1:158-162.(Read Full Paper)
  2. ^ Fritz Uwe; Peter Havaš (2007). "Checklist of Chelonians of the World". Vertebrate Zoology 57 (2): 163–164. Archived from the original on 2010-12-17. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  3. ^ Georges, A. & Thomson, S. 2010. Diversity of Australasian freshwater turtles, with an annotated synonymy and keys to species. Zootaxa 2496: 1–37.
  4. ^ Obst, Fritz Jurgen (1998). Cogger, H.G. & Zweifel, R.G., ed. Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. San Diego: Academic Press. p. 118. ISBN 0-12-178560-2. 
  5. ^ Michael Bargeron. "The Pig-nosed Turtle, Carettochelys insculpta". CTTC. Retrieved 2013-04-08. 
  6. ^ Georges, A. & M. Rose (1993). Conservation biology of the pig-nosed turtle, Carettochelys insculpta in Chelonian Conservation and Biology 1:3-12.
  7. ^ "Unique Pig-Nosed Turtle Reaches Brink of Extinction". TreeHugger. Retrieved 2011-07-19. 
  8. ^ "Over 10,000 pig-nose turtles released into habitat.pssst(they are so cute :D )". Antara News. 2010-12-31. Retrieved 2011-07-19. 
  9. ^ "Authorities at Jakarta Airport, Indonesia seize 687 endangered pig-nosed turtles". Wikinews. April 2, 2013. Retrieved 2 May 2013. 
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Subspecies

None currently recognized. The subspecific designation by Wells (2002) does not constitute a publication for the purposes of nomenclature, and adequate differentiation of the New Guinean and Australian populations as subspecies has not been presented.
  • Georges, A., Doody, J.S., Eisemberg, C., Alacs, E.A., and Rose, M. 2008. Carettochelys insculpta Ramsay 1886 – pig-nosed turtle, Fly River turtle. In: Rhodin, A.G.J., Pritchard, P.C.H., van Dijk, P.P., Saumure, R.A., Buhlmann, K.A., and Iverson, J.B. (Eds.). Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. Chelonian Research Monographs No. 5, pp. 009.1-009.17, doi:10.3854/crm.5.009.insculpta.v1.2008, http://www.iucn-tftsg.org/cbftt./cbftt
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