These turtles form a small genus of significantly ancient turtles found in Australia, and possible New Guinea. The genus (Myuchelys]) was split off from the Elseya, in 2010 by Thomson and Georges (2010) as the larger genus Elseya was paraphyletic with respect to the Emydura. They inhabit freshwater streams and lakes and are carnivorous.
The Myuchelys is a genus of turtles, the Australian saw-shelled turtles, in the family Chelidae. They inhabit the headwaters and tributaries of rivers within their range and this led to the name Myuchelys, which is formed from the Aboriginal word myuna meaning clear water and the Greek chelys meaning turtle. They have a short neck and the intergular scute completely separates the gular scutes. They have no alveolar ridge separating them from the snapping turtles of the genus Elseya.
The genus currently contains these cryptic small species of freshwater turtles, endemic to eastern and northern Australia:
- Saw-shelled turtle, Myuchelys latisternum Gray, 1867
- Bellinger River snapping turtle, Myuchelys georgesi Cann, 1997
- Namoi River snapping turtle, Myuchelys bellii Gray, 1844
The species M. latisternum was originally placed in the genus Elseya by Gray, 1867 but Elseya was redefined by Boulenger, 1889 to include species defined by the presence of an alveolar ridge. Hence, Myuchelys latisternum and Myuchelys novaeguineae were moved to the genus Emydura. In 1967, the two species were placed back in the genus Elseya by Goode, where they remained until recently.
During the time, the species Myuchelys bellii was basically lost to knowledge, having been misidentified as a South American species when described by Gray, 1844, and was in the genus Phrynops until this oversight was corrected by Cann, 1998. The species Myuchelys georgesi and Myuchelys purvisi were initially placed in the genus Elseya, but were identified as belonging to a unique clade along with Myuchelys latisternum and Myuchelys bellii using electrophoresis.
The first attempt to separate this group into its own genus was the genus Euchelymys (Gray, 1871), but this name was subsequently synonymised with Elseya by Boulenger (1889) and the name was made permanently unavailable when Lindholm (1929) set Euchelymys sulcifera (= Emydura macquarii) as the type species, effectively making the name Euchelymys a junior synonym of Emydura.
Another option investigated was the fossil form Pelocomastes, de Vis 1897; the species in this genus may have represented an extinct member of the latisternum group, but this was determined to be incorrect and the name Pelocomastes is now considered a junior synonym of Elseya.
The genus name Wollumbinia was erected by Wells, 2007, however, this paper was declared to be in breach of the ICZN code defining a valid publication, ICZN Articles 8 and 9 and Recommendation 8D. As such this name is not considered valid. The genus encompassing these species was named Myuchelys by Thomson and Georges, 2009. Currently, this arrangement is considered the accepted name for the latisternum group by the IUCN, multiple taxonomic checklists and by numerous workers in diverse disciplines.
- Thomson, S. & Georges, A. (2009) Myuchelys gen. nov. —a new genus for Elseya latisternum and related forms of Australian freshwater turtle (Testudines: Pleurodira: Chelidae) Zootaxa 2053: 32–42.
- Rhodin, Anders G.J.; van Dijk, Peter Paul; Inverson, John B.; Shaffer, H. Bradley; Roger, Bour (2011-12-31). "Turtles of the world, 2011 update: Annotated checklist of taxonomy, synonymy, distribution and conservation status". Chelonian Research Monographs 6: 000.213. doi:10.3854/crm.5.000.checklist.v4.2011. Archived from the original on 2012-01-22.
- Gray, J.E. 1867. Description of a new Australian tortoise. Annals and Magazine of Natural History. 3(20):43-45
- Cann, J. 1998a. Georges short-neck turtle. Monitor 9(1):18-23.
- Gray, J. E. 1844. Catalogue of the Tortoises, Crocodiles and Amphibaenians in the Collection of the British Museum. London. Edward Newman. 80pp.
- Boulenger, G.A. (1889) Catalogue of the Chelonians, Rhynchocephalians, and Crocodiles in the British Museum (Natural History). British Museum, London.
- Goode, J. (1967) Freshwater Tortoises of Australia and New Guinea (in the Family Chelidae). Lansdowne Press, Melbourne.
- Cann, J. (1998) Australian Freshwater Turtles. Beaumont Publishing, Singapore.
- Georges, A. & Adams, M. (1992). "A phylogeny for Australian chelid turtles based on allozyme electrophoresis". Australian Journal of Zoology 40 (5): 453–476. doi:10.1071/zo9920453. Retrieved 2012-05-13.
- Gray, J.E. (1871) On Euchelymys, a new genus and two new species of Australian freshwater tortoises. Annals and Magazine of Natural History (London), Series 4, 8, 117–118.
- Lindholm, W.A. (1929) Revidiertes Verzeichnis der Gattungen der rezenten Schildkröten nebst Notizen zur Nomenklatur einger Arten. Zoologischer Anzeiger, 81, 275–295.
- de Vis, C.W. 1897. The extinct freshwater turtles of Queensland. Annals of the Queensland Museum. 3: 3-7.
- Thomson, S. A. 2000 06 30: A Revision of the Fossil Chelid Turtles (Pleurodira) Described by C.W. De Vis, 1897. Memoires of the Queensland Museum 45(2):593-598. Brisbane. ISSN 0079-8835.
- Wells, R.W. (2007) Some taxonomic and nomenclatural considerations on the Class Reptilia in Australia. A new genus of the Family Chelidae from eastern Australia. "Australian Biodiversity Record", 2007(3), 1–12. ISSN: 1325-2992
- Georges, A. & Thomson, S. 2010. Diversity of Australasian freshwater turtles, with an annotated synonymy and keys to species. Zootaxa 2496: 1–37.
- Fritz, U. & Havaš, P. (2007) Checklist of Chelonians of the World. Vertebrate Zoology (Dresden), 57, 149–368.
- Anders G.J. Rhodin, Peter Paul van Dijk, John B. Iverson, and H. Bradley Shaffer. 2010. Turtles of the World, 2010 Update: Annotated Checklist of Taxonomy, Synonymy, Distribution, and Conservation Status
- Fielder D, Vernes K, Alacs E, Georges A (2012) Mitochondrial variation among Australian freshwater turtles (genus Myuchelys), with special reference to the Endangered M. bellii. Endang Species Res 17:63-71
- Georges A, Spencer RJ, Welsh M, Shaffer HB, Walsh R, Zhang X (2011) Application of the precautionary principle to taxa of uncertain status: the case of the Bellinger River turtle. Endang Species Res 14:127-134
- Le, M., Reid, B., N., McCord, W., P., Naro-Maciel, E., Raxworthy, C., J., Amato, G., Georges A., 2013. Resolving the phylogenetic history of the short-necked turtles, genera Elseya and Myuchelys (Testudines: Chelidae) from Australia and New Guinea. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 68 (2013) 251–258.
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