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

Pig-nosed turtles have a very restricted range, being found in the northernmost river systems of the Northern Territory of Australia and in southern lowlands of New Guinea. These turtles inhabit several rivers within the Northern Territory, including the Victoria and Daly River systems. The southernmost extent of their range is 14˚04’40”S latitude and the easternmost extent is 131˚15’00"E longitude, during the dry season.

Biogeographic Regions: australian (Native )

  • Doody, J., J. Young, A. Georges. 2002. Sex differences in activity and movements in the pig-nosed turtle, Carettochelys insculpta, in the wet-dry tropics of Australia. Copeia, 2002/1: 93-103.
  • Georges, A., S. Doody, J. Young, J. Cann. 2000. The Australian Pig-Nosed Turtle. Canberra, Australia: Robey.
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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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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

Pig-nosed turtles have large bodies and a nose similar to that of a pig, giving them their common name. These turtles lack bony scutes overlaying their shell, which has a leathery texture akin to that found in softshell turtles. The plastron is cream-colored, while the carapace can vary between different shades of brown to dark gray. They have flat, broad limbs that have two claws each, with their enlarged pectoral flippers having a similar appearance to those of sea turtles. These flippers lead to a rather clumsy gait on land, thus leading pig-nosed turtles to spend most of their time in the water. Pig-nosed turtles have strong jaws and short tails. An adult's size depends on its habitat, with individuals near the coast being much larger than those near rivers. Female pig-nosed turtles tend to be larger than males in size but males tend to have a longer and thicker tail. Adults can be as large as half a meter long, with an average weight of 22.5 kg and an average shell length of 46 cm.

Average mass: 22.5 kg.

Average length: 46 cm.

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry

  • Eisemberg, C., M. Rose, B. Yaru, A. Georges. 2011. Demonstrating decline of an iconic species under sustained indigenous harvest – The pig-nosed turtle (Carettochelys insculpta) in Papua New Guinea. Biological Conservation, 144/9: 2282-2288.
  • Groombridge, B., L. Wright. 1982. The IUCN Amphibia-Reptilia Red Data Book. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.
  • Rooij, N., B. Archive E. J.. 2010. The Reptiles of the Indo-Australian Archipelago. BiblioBazaar: Brill Archive.
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Ecology

Habitat

Pig-nosed turtles inhabit freshwater and estuarine bodies of water. They are normally found on beaches or in ribbonweed beds of ponds, rivers, creeks, lakes, brackish water, and thermal springs. Females prefer sandy flat rock microhabitats whereas males prefer isolated log microhabitats. Both sexes show equal preference for ribbonweed bed microhabitats.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; freshwater

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams; temporary pools; coastal ; brackish water

Wetlands: swamp

Other Habitat Features: estuarine

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Terrestrial nest sites

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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Trophic Strategy

The diet of pig-nosed turtles varies by life stage. At hatching, nutrition comes from the left-over yolk of the egg. As they grow, they turn to small forms of aquatic life such as insect larvae, small shrimp, and snails. These three types of food are easily accessible and are found where they hatch, preventing them from having to leave their hole. Adult pig-nosed turtles are omnivorous, but prefer to eat more plant matter such as flowers, fruits, and leaves found at the riverbank. They also eat mollusks and insects.

Animal Foods: insects; mollusks; aquatic crustaceans

Plant Foods: leaves; fruit; flowers

Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore , Molluscivore ); herbivore (Folivore , Frugivore ); omnivore

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Associations

These turtles act as predators of several species of aquatic invertebrates and riparian plants. Their eggs serve as as prey to several lizard species. Pig-nosed turtles also provide an ecosystem service by aerating soil while digging holes during the nesting season. Known parasites of pig-nosed turtles include three species of flatworms, two of which (Doodytrema carettochelydis and Paradeuterobaris novaguieae) were first described from this species.

Ecosystem Impact: soil aeration

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

  • Blair, D., M. Rose. 1986. Paradeuterobaris novaguineae n. gen. and n. sp. (Digenea: Microscaphidiidae) from the intestine of Carettochelys insculpta (Reptilia: Chelonia) from Papua New Guinea. The Journal of Parasitology, 72/2: 232-235.
  • Tkach, V., S. Snyder. 2006. Doodytrema carettochelydis n. gen., n. sp., (Digenea: Microscaphidiidae) from the Pig-Nosed Turtle, Carettochelys insculpta, (Cryptodira: Carettochelydidae) in Australia. Comparative Parasitology, 73/2: 165-171.
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Adult pig-nosed turtles are relatively well protected from predators by their tough shells, with the only real threat of predation coming from humans. Their eggs, however, are highly vulnerable to predation by other organisms. A study at the beaches near the Daly River found that eggs were being consumed by two lizard species (Varanus panoptes and Varanus mertensi). This study suggested that predation was lowest when pig-nosed turtles laid eggs in clusters rather than in single nests.

Known Predators:

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Little is known about how pig-nosed turtles communicate or perceive their surroundings. The nose is used for snorkeling in murky water, and contains sensory receptors that are used to detect and locate their prey. Like other turtles, they have eyes for visual perception of their environment, although the turbid waters in which they are often found likely relegates vision to a secondary sensory role. They also have well-developed inner ears, which are capable of detecting a wide range of sound frequencies.

Communication Channels: tactile

Other Communication Modes: scent marks

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

  • Zug, G., L. Vitt, J. Caldwell. 2001. Herpetology, Second Edition: An Introductory Biology of Amphibians and Reptiles. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
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Life Cycle

Maternal choice of nest site can have a great impact on embryonic development, determining offspring sex and survival rate. Pig-nosed turtles exhibit temperature-dependent sex determination. Both males and females are produced when eggs are incubated at 32°C. Males are produced when the temperature is decreased by half a degree and females are produced when the temperature increases by half a degree. Like other turtles, pig-nosed turtles exhibit indeterminate growth and do not go through any type of metamorphosis.

Development - Life Cycle: temperature sex determination; indeterminate growth

  • Doody, J., R. Sims, A. Georges, M. Lannoo. 2003. Gregarious behavior of nesting turtles (Carettochelys insculpta) does not reduce nest predation risk. Copeia, 2003/4: 894-898.
  • Georges, A., K. Beggs, J. Young, J. Doody. 2005. Modelling development of reptile embryos under fluctuating temperature regimes. Modelling Reptilian Development, 78/1: 18-29.
  • Webb, G., D. Choquenot, P. Whitehead. 1986. Nests, eggs, and embryonic development of Carettochelys insculpta (chelonia: Carettochelidae) from Northern Australia. Journal of Zoology, 1/3: 521-550.
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Life Expectancy

Pig-nosed turtles have been reported to live 38.4 years in captivity. No information is available regarding the lifespan of this species in the wild.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
38.4 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Sex: female

Status: captivity:
17.3 years.

  • de Magalhaes, J., J. Costa. 2009. A database of vertebrate longevity records and their relation to other life-history traits. A Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 22/8: 1770-1774.
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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 38.4 years (captivity)
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Reproduction

Little is known about the mating habits of pig-nosed turtles, but given the evidence for multiple paternity and observed polygyny in several turtle species, it seems likely that this species is similarly promiscuous. Studies have indicated that mating occurs in the water. Males never come out of the water and females only come out when they are about to lay eggs. They don’t return to land until the next nesting season.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Pig-nosed turtles are oviparous and breed during the dry season. In the Daly River, turtles nest and lay two clutches of eggs during the dry season (July-October), every other year.

Breeding interval: Pig-nosed turtles lay two clutches of eggs, every two years

Breeding season: Pig-nosed turtles nest during the dry season, which falls between July and October.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; oviparous

Females invest energy in the pre-hatching stage, whereas males provide no investment. Females look for the best place with the lowest predator density to lay their eggs, which they do by communicating with other females of the group with whom they travel. The best laying sites have soil with an ideal moisture content to easily make a nest chamber. They tend to avoid nesting at low elevations because of the chances of egg loss due to flooding. Females also avoid beaches that are dominated by submerged vegetation.

Parental Investment: female parental care ; pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Female)

  • Crim, J., L. Spotila, J. Spotila, M. O'Connor, R. Reina, C. Williams, F. Paladinos. 2002. The leatherback turtle, Dermochelys coriacea, exhibits both polyandry and polygyny. Molecular Ecology, 11: 2097-2106.
  • Doody, J., P. West, A. Georges. 2003. Beach selection in nesting pig-nosed turtles, Carettochelus insculpta. Journal of Herpetology, 37/1: 178-182.
  • Doody, J., R. Sims, A. Georges, M. Lannoo. 2003. Gregarious behavior of nesting turtles (Carettochelys insculpta) does not reduce nest predation risk. Copeia, 2003/4: 894-898.
  • Doody, J., R. Sims, A. Georges. 2003. Gregarious behavior of nesting turtles (Carettochelys insculpta) does not reduce nest predation risk. Copeia, 2003/4: 894-898.
  • Eisemberg, C., M. Rose, B. Yaru, A. Georges. 2011. Demonstrating decline of an iconic species under sustained indigenous harvest – The pig-nosed turtle (Carettochelys insculpta) in Papua New Guinea. Biological Conservation, 144/9: 2282-2288.
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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

Pig-nosed turtles are considered vulnerable by the IUCN Red List and are a CITES Appendix II species. This species has experienced a dramatic population due to overharvest as a food source. In Kakadu National Park, pig-nosed turtles can gain protection from feral buffalos, which crush pig-nosed turtle eggs buried in river banks, if they live in the Alligator region of the park. Austraila has attempted and failed to preserve their habitat through their Australian EPBC Act.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: appendix ii

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: vulnerable

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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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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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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

There are no known adverse effects of pig-nosed turtles on humans.

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In New Guinea, pig-nosed turtles are hunted for meat. Their eggs are highly prized and are sold in markets. If adults are caught, they are usually traded off for something more profitable at the market. Local people eat pig-nosed turtles often, both for their taste and high protein content.

Positive Impacts: food

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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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© IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group

Source: IUCN SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group

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