Pig nosed turtles are named for the shape of their snout which is flat and elongated. This is located at the end of a slightly large head. The shape of their nose is an adaptation which allows them to easily breathe at the water’s surface.
The skin on the head, flippers and tails is coloured grey on top and white on the bottom. Their flippers are flattened and shaped like a paddle. These are tipped with two claws. These flippers are more similar to those of a sea turtle than any other freshwater turtle.
A males tail is typically longer than that of the female. Females are normally larger overall though.
On their back is the shell. This has a leathery covering which has small depressions in it. It is coloured grey on top and white on the underside. The shell measures 40cm (15.7in).
Their total length is between 70 and 75cm (28-30in). An average weight is 30kg (66lbs).
Pig nosed turtles are omnivores. The majority of their diet is vegetation such as fruit and the leaves, stems and roots of plants including figs, lily pily and pandanus. This is supplemented with fish, insects and crustaceans. They may also scavenge for carrion.
They are found throughout Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. In Australia they are found in the Northern Territory and in Indonesia they live on the island of Papua. They are found in the South of this island.
Pig nosed turtles are entirely aquatic. They only emerge from the water during the breeding season to lay eggs. Most of their habitats are freshwater though on occasion they may enter brackish water.
They make their home in warm rivers, streams, wetlands, lakes and lagoons. These are typically soft bottomed and have slow moving currents.
Mating takes place from July to November which is the dry season in Australia. Typically a female will mate every second year.
Eggs are laid on a shallow sand bank and this is the only time these animals leave the water. During the dry season these sandbanks are exposed allowing this to take place. Typically egg laying will take place at night. They dig a shallow hole in to which they can deposit the eggs.
A clutch of eggs will includes around 22 eggs which have a thin shell.
Hatching takes place at the start of the wet season from October to December. Incubation length varies from 64 to 107 days. After the first rains the water level will rise and this makes the path to the water easier for the hatchlings. They may delay hatching up to 50 days to line up with the occurrence of the first rains.
The gender of the hatchlings is dependent on weather. If incubated at warm temperatures the eggs hatch female and at lower temperatures there will be more males.
At hatching they measure 41-56mm (1.6-2.2in) and weigh 21-30g (0.7-1oz).
Sexual maturity is reached between 14 and 15 years old.
As a fully aquatic species their days are spent swimming.
Predators and Threats
They are preyed upon by crocodiles and monitor lizards.
Humans reduce the population of the pig-nosed turtles through hunting both for food and to sell in to the pet trade. While the capture and importation of this species is now prohibited it is not often enforced leading to an illegal market continuing.
Habitat degradation also has an effect on their population. When their habitat is damaged they struggle to recover as unlike other turtles they cannot move across land to a new habitat.
Their nesting sites are damaged by invasive species such as the water buffalo which trample the eggs.
They are also known as the Fly river turtle for the first river in which they were found.
By Photo by Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man) – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=917010
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