Twist-Necked Turtle Fact File

Platemys platycephala

Credit: Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons








Wild 20 years

Captive 20 years



Fish, Eggs

Conservation Status


Least Concern

Twist it to the Side!

The side-necked turtle is able to twist its neck to the side and move it under the shell offering a level of protection against predation.

These animals are poor swimmers and spend most of their time walking along the bottom of the river seeking out food such as amphibian eggs and fish.

Female twist-necked turtles walk a significant distance from the watercourse they inhabit to lay a single egg in a shallow depression which they make in the ground.

The main threat to this species is collection for the pet trade.

Read on to learn more about these terrific turtles.


What does the Twist-Necked Turtle look like?

The twist-necked turtle has brown scales on the head and legs. On top of the head is a patch of yellow or orange scales. This coloration helps to camouflage them with leaf litter.

A number of prominent spikes are present on the neck.

Along their back is a hard shell. The upper surface of this is colored a chestnut brown and this is patterned with lighter brown or yellow branches. 2 ridges are present along the length of the shell. The underside is black or dark brown. A portion of shell joining the bottom and top is colored yellow.

Their feet feature partial webbing to help push them through the water.

An average individual will measure 15cm (6in) long with an average weight of 325g (11.5oz).

Males tend to have a longer and thicker tail than the females.


How does the Twist-Necked Turtle survive in its habitat?

These animals can twist their head to the side under the shell. This gives them an opportunity to hide from predators.

Their body is vertically flattened and this is allows them to slide under rocks so that they can hide.

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What does the Twist-Necked Turtle eat?

Twist-necked turtles are carnivores which will feed on a range of small animals including invertebrates, small fish and tadpoles. A primary food source in the wild appears to be amphibian eggs.

Learn more about the Twist-Necked Turtle in this video from The Animal King on YouTube


Where do you find the Twist-Necked Turtle?

South America is the native home of the twist-necked turtle. Here they can be found in the following countries - Bolivia; Brazil; Colombia; Ecuador; French Guiana; Guyana; Peru; Suriname and Venezuela.


Where can the Twist-Necked Turtle survive?

This species is found in freshwater environments including swamps and ponds.

Twist-Necked Turtle (Platemys platycephala)

Credit: Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


How does the Twist-Necked Turtle produce its young?

Breeding can take place year round.

Females produce one egg at a time which is deposited in a small scrape created on the ground. She will cover the egg with a pile of rotting leaves. It is common for the female to move a distance from the water to lay.


What does the Twist-Necked Turtle do during its day?

This species is not considered to be a good swimmer and will spend most of its time in shallow areas of water. They are also able to move along the ground. These animals primarily move by walking along the bottom of the watercourse rather than swimming.

They are considered rather terrestrial and spend much of the time on land.

Twist-Necked Turtle (Platemys platycephala)

Credit: Copyright. The Animal Facts.

Predators and Threats

What stops the Twist-Necked Turtle from surviving and thriving?

Small numbers of these turtles are captured from the wild for export and sale in to the pet trade.

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Quick facts

This species may also be known as the flat-headed turtle, grooved sideneck turtle or chata. Some authorities name this species the 'mata mata' though this name is more commonly used for the turtle, 'Chelus fimbriatus'

They were first described for modern science during 1792.

Two subspecies of the twist-necked turtle are listed.

Twist-Necked Turtle (Platemys platycephala)

Credit:, CC BY 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK     

The Reptile Database. 2022. Platemys platycephala. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 22 April 2022].

Somma, L.A., 2022, Platemys platycephala (Schneider, 1792): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL,, Revision Date: 8/10/2018, Access Date: 4/22/2022 2022. Platemys platycephala, S.American flat-headed turtle. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 22 April 2022].

Connor, M., 2022. Twist-necked Turtle, Platemys platycephala by C. Dee Dillon - CTTC. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 22 April 2022]. 2022. Twistneck turtle (Platemys platycephala) longevity, ageing, and life history. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 22 April 2022].

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