Published: Sun, April 15, 2018
Medicine | By Melba Vasquez

Australia's 'punk turtle' risks being last of the Mohicans

Australia's 'punk turtle' risks being last of the Mohicans

The 40-centimeter-long water turtle can only be found on the Mary River in Queensland, Australia.

This unusual species, whose closest relative on the Tree of Life was declared extinct less than 30 years ago, can change colour over a 24-hour period and is also the only vertebrate with a joint in its upper jaw, used to capture and eat its lizard prey.

'It would be a failure if we let this animal that walked alongside dinosaurs become extinct'. Joining them are the world's largest sea turtle, the leatherback, and the gharial, a crocodile found in the rivers of Nepal and northern India.

The rebellious fashion choice of the Mary river turtle has caught the attention of netizens. Unfortunately, like all good things, it is now one of the most endangered species on Earth.

The Mary River turtle has a head crowned by vertical strands of algae that also grow on its body.

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The 40cm-long turtle's path to becoming endangered was helped by its popularity as a pet in the 1960s-70s that led to its nests being pillaged.

The Mary River Turtle lives in well-oxygenated, flowing sections of streams.

The Mary River turtle is able to breathe through its bum thanks to gill-like organs in its cloaca. It can stay underwater for up to three days.

All this might sound interesting, but it's worth noting these unique looks and freakish features are also the cause of Mary River turtle's downfall.

Academic research was hampered in 1974 when traders refused to reveal the habitat of what were then known as "Penny Turtles" after Australia outlawed the practice of keeping them as pets.

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A statement from the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection past year said that the University of Queensland was looking at habitat requirements and threats to the Mary River turtle, but that more information was needed to know how to protect it.

Mary River Turtle has been officially listed among the most endangered. It was classified as a new species.

This fact triggered some desperate calls for a better protection of this special reptile that only lives in a remote part on the east coast of the Australian continent. Then along came the pigs and foxes, and on top of the native predators and people - that's what has made them endangered, ' he said.

The species has suffered through the years from the illegal pet trade.

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