The common snake-necked turtle is named for the long neck which leads to their small head. This neck is usually around half the length of the shell though in some individuals it can be the same length. The long neck is an adaptation which allows them to lunge at food and can be used as a snorkel while the body rests on the base of a watercourse.
They are a side-necked turtle and the head is bent sideways in to the shell rather than pulling it straight back.
On the back is the hard carapace or shell. This is broad and provides protection against predators. A shallow groove runs down the centre of the shell. This is colored brown, black or yellow on some occasions. The undersurface is white or yellow with distinctive black stripes running across it.
Their legs end with webbed feet to assist with swimming. The front feet have four claws on each. The legs and neck are colored grey.
On average they measure 26cm (10.2in) long and weigh 602g (21.22oz). Males are typically smaller than females with a longer, thicker tail.
The common snake-necked turtle is a carnivore. Their diet is made up of fish, molluscs, crustaceans, tadpoles, invertebrates and carrion.
They are an ambush predator and will wait for food to come to them before launching at it with their long neck. Food gets sucked in to the mouth through the creation of a vacuum in the mouth by suddenly lowering the hyoid bone.
Wild 30 years
— AD —
Australia is the native home of the common snake-necked turtle. Here they can be found on the east coast in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.
They make their home in freshwater environments such as wetlands.
Most of their time is spent in the water. They will live in streams, lagoons, swamps and rivers.
Mating takes place from September to October. Both males and females will mate with multiple partners during the breeding season. Males are more active during this period as they seek out mates.
Males will court the female by bobbing their head and touching her cloaca before mating takes place in the water.
Following a successful mating the female will dig a nest close to the water where they deposit a clutch of up to 24 eggs. In a season one female can lay up to three clutches of eggs. To make digging the nest easier the female will wet the ground with cloacal fluid first. After digging the nest she fills the hole back in and then raises her body before collapsing on the dirt to compact it.
These eggs incubate for 120-150 days before hatching.
Hatchlings turtles have a black undersurface of their shell with red, orange and yellow spots. They also have an orange stripe down the jaw and neck.
Males reach sexual maturity at 7 or 8 years old with females maturing later between 10 and 12 years old.
If the water course they call home dries out they may travel long distances to reach a new home. If conditions are dry they may aestivate. This process involves burrowing under leaf litter and entering a long period of dormancy until it rains again.
They are considered solitary and move around alone but multiple turtles can live in close range of one another.
During the day they will emerge from the water to bask in the sun on a log or the shoreline.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the common snake-necked turtle include water rats, goannas, birds of prey such as ravens and white-bellied sea eagles and the dingo.
When threatened they retreat inside the shell which provides some protection. They can also emit a foul odor from their musk glands.
Their strong immune system allows them to survive large injuries such as a loss of their shell.
Eggs are preyed upon by the introduced red fox. In areas with a large red fox population there is a near absence of juvenile common snake-necked turtles.
Habitat loss, climate change and environmental changes prevent a threat. Humans convert some of the wetlands they call home to permanent lakes which can cause algal blooms. They are a common victim of vehicle strikes.
They are also known as the eastern snake-necked turtle, eastern long-necked turtles, stinker and the long-neck tortoise.
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RicciSpeziari, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=968250
By jjron – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3611729
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