The Mary River Turtle From Australia Is Certainly Unique Looking
The first moment I saw the Mary River Turtle a loud “WOAH” escaped my mouth without delay. How the heck is this even a turtle? And how have I not seen this cool-looking punk turtle up to this point in my life?
The Mary River Turtle is only found in the Mary River of south east Queensland, Australia. Despite the fact that it’s one of Australia’s largest freshwater turtles, it only received official scientific recognition in the 90s.
Experts believe that it managed to swim under the radar for so long because:
a) this river turtle can breathe underwater and
b) its shell collects algae so it’s often hard to detect
Do They Really Have Green “Hair?”
That would be really cool if they did have green hair. Sadly however, what’s often the marker of the “green hair turtle” is not actually hair.
Sprouts of green algae grow over its head and shell creating their adorable punk-rock look. The growing algae collects on the shell and forms a disguise which helps them conceal from predators.
Oh, And They Breathe Through Their Genitals…
Another super interesting thing about the Mary River Turtle is that it breathes through “cloaca” while they’re underwater. Cloaca is a method of bimodal respiration, done through the turtles genitals which are responsible for excretion and mating.
Because of this, they can breathe underwater for up to three days at a time! Experts believe that this is the reason the turtle went undetected until 1994.
The Mary River Turtle is one Australia’s biggest turtle species. They also have a super long tail for a turtle, long barbels under their mandible, and the largest hind feet of all the species within that particular catchment. Because of this, they’re also the fastest swimming turtles!
Today They Are One Of The World’s Most Endangered Reptiles
So basically, some jerks in the 60s and 70s used to raid this turtle’s nest and sell 15,000 baby turtles per year to pet shops. This went on for over ten years. They used to be known as a “penny turtle” or a “pet shop turtle”. They were popular pets because of their sweet disposition. Sniff.
What wasn’t clear back then, however, was that this precious, endangered turtle doesn’t reach sexual maturity until 25 years old! Because of this, they don’t have any babies until they’re 25 years old. You can imagine the problem this presents when it comes to the regeneration of all the damage that was done in previous decades. This poor turtle can’t start contributing to the population for a quarter of a century!
Furthermore, there are additional factors contributing to the decline in its species. The collection of eggs for the pet trade kicked things off, but now there’s a lot going on in the Mary River area which puts the punk rock turtle in further danger.
Red foxes, while dogs, and even fish prey on the precious eggs of this endangered turtle. Add to that the deteriorating water quality due to land clearing and runoff, as well as invasive plants along the riverbank, and it’s a sad situation.
If you’d like to help this ancient species survive for coming generations, check out this page and donate something. Anything will help the brave humans dedicating their lives to saving these and other endangered species!
Related: World Turtle Day meets the Grateful Dead in this amazing cover song!