Brief Summary

Saw-Shelled Turtles

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.

  • 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..
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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.[1] 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:

Taxonomic history[edit]

The species M. latisternum was originally placed in the genus Elseya by Gray, 1867[3] but Elseya was redefined by Boulenger, 1889[6] 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,[7] 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,[5] and was in the genus Phrynops until this oversight was corrected by Cann, 1998.[8] 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.[9]

The first attempt to separate this group into its own genus was the genus Euchelymys (Gray, 1871),[10] but this name was subsequently synonymised with Elseya by Boulenger (1889)[6] and the name was made permanently unavailable when Lindholm (1929)[11] 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;[12] 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.[13]

The genus name Wollumbinia was erected by Wells, 2007,[14] however, this paper was erroneously declared to be in breach of the ICZN code. Georges & Thomson chose to selectively interpret the Code for their own benefit. By so doing they defined a valid publication which had nomenclatural priority as being invalid. In the same article they then set about proposing an alternative generic name 'Myuchelys' (Georges & Thomson, 2009). This position is now dated (see Cogger 2014, where he discounts their misapplication of the Code). In the interim, and because most people assume that the Journal Zootaxa is objectively peer reviewed, some unquestioning individuals have accepted the invalidity of Wollumbinia on assertion by Thompson and Georges. Therefore, Myuchelys has temporarily gained acceptance within some internet based data sources such as Wikipedia (until now this item) and the Reptile Database. The assertion that Wells (2007) was in breach of ICZN Articles 8 and 9 and Recommendation 8D, is not the case (see Thomson & Georges, 2009).[15][16] As such this name is not considered valid by some, particularly Georges and Thomson, but clearly is considered valid by Cogger, (2014) and the Australian Government, (Department of the Environment 2014).[15][16][17] The genus encompassing these species was named Myuchelys by Thomson and Georges, 2009.[1] Currently, this arrangement is considered the accepted name for the latisternum group by the IUCN, however this will likely change when the IUCN reconsider the validation of Wollumbinia in the rational 'light' of Cogger, 2014 who rejects Georges & Thomson's erection of Myuchelys. The IUCN will then also update its Conservation status to reflect the correct generic assignation to the latisternum group. Consequently this page is redundant and will be correctly replaced by the valid generic name Wollumbinia in due course. Myuchelys will be hence appropriately assigned to the synonymy of Wollumbinia (Wells 2007) which has legitimate priority [17] several taxonomic checklists will also need to be changed to recognize the valid name Wollumbinia.[16][18][19]

In 2013, Le et al.[20] found that one species was still paraphyletic and proposed a new monophyletic genus to handle this. The Manning River turtle Wollumbinia purvisi, was therefore moved to the genus Flaviemys.


  1. ^ a b c 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.
  2. ^ a b 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. 
  3. ^ a b Gray, J.E. 1867. Description of a new Australian tortoise. Annals and Magazine of Natural History. 3(20):43-45
  4. ^ Cann, J. 1998a. Georges short-neck turtle. Monitor 9(1):18-23.
  5. ^ a b Gray, J. E. 1844. Catalogue of the Tortoises, Crocodiles and Amphibaenians in the Collection of the British Museum. London. Edward Newman. 80pp.
  6. ^ a b Boulenger, G.A. (1889) Catalogue of the Chelonians, Rhynchocephalians, and Crocodiles in the British Museum (Natural History). British Museum, London.
  7. ^ Goode, J. (1967) Freshwater Tortoises of Australia and New Guinea (in the Family Chelidae). Lansdowne Press, Melbourne.
  8. ^ Cann, J. (1998) Australian Freshwater Turtles. Beaumont Publishing, Singapore.
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Lindholm, W.A. (1929) Revidiertes Verzeichnis der Gattungen der rezenten Schildkröten nebst Notizen zur Nomenklatur einger Arten. Zoologischer Anzeiger, 81, 275–295.
  12. ^ de Vis, C.W. 1897. The extinct freshwater turtles of Queensland. Annals of the Queensland Museum. 3: 3-7.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ Wells, R.W. (2007) [1] 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
  15. ^ a b Georges, A. & Thomson, S. 2010. Diversity of Australasian freshwater turtles, with an annotated synonymy and keys to species. Zootaxa 2496: 1–37.
  16. ^ a b c Fritz, U. & Havaš, P. (2007) Checklist of Chelonians of the World. Vertebrate Zoology (Dresden), 57, 149–368.
  17. ^ a b 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
  18. ^ 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
  19. ^ 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
  20. ^ 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 = Wollumbinia (see Cogger 2014) (Testudines: Chelidae) from Australia and New Guinea. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 68 (2013) 251–258.

Cogger, H.G. (2014) Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia. CSIRO Publishing, Australia http://www.publish.csiro.au/nid/18/pid/6501.htm

Department of the Environment (2014). Wollumbinia belli in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Tue, 9 Dec 2014 http://www.environment.gov.au/cgi-bin/sprat/public/publicspecies.pl?taxon_id=86071

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