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Mary River Turtle

Elusor macrurus

Class: Reptilia
Lifespan: Up to 75 years   
Diet: Omnivore
Weight: Up to 7kg
Height: Up to 45cm                            
Reproduction: Egg-laying
Status: Endangered

The Mary River turtle is a species of freshwater turtle that is endemic to the Mary River in south-east Queensland, from Gympie to Maryborough. Endemic means that they are not found anywhere else.

Popular as pets in the 1960’s and 70’s, thousands of Mary River turtles were removed from their habitat and sold as “penny turtles” in pet stores. It wasn’t until 1994 that the Mary River turtle was actually identified by scientists as a unique species and found to be the only living member of an ancient lineage of turtles. It is now an engendered species due to the number of turtles and eggs taken for the pet trade, as well as ongoing habitat degradation due to the building of dams and agricultural development along the Mary River.

The Mary River turtle is a species of turtle that is capable of ‘cloacal breathing’, whereby they breathe oxygen underwater through their cloaca. This allows Mary River turtles to stay submerged for days at a time without the need to come to the surface to breathe.

The Mary River turtle can be identified by the massive tail of the male turtle, which can grow up to 70% the length of its shell.