Green-haired turtle that breathes through its genitals added to endangered list

Green-Haired, Genital-Breathing Turtle Added to Endangered Reptiles List

Green-Haired, Genital-Breathing Turtle Added to Endangered Reptiles List

It's an oddly fascinating creature to look at, but it's more importantly been added to a list of the world's most vulnerable reptiles, collated by the Zoological Society of London.

"This turtle is able to spend so much time underwater-up to three days-without coming up for air due to its unusual ability to breathe through its bum", Rikki Gumbs of the Imperial College London, who helped compile the EDGE reptile list, told AFP. This odd-looking creature is part of the world's most vulnerable reptiles list, collated by the Zoological Society of London. 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.

Named after the river it inhabits that runs through the Sunshine Coast, the turtle gets its distinctive look from green algae growing on its head and body. The turtle became an extremely popular pet between the '60s and '70s.

"There has been a reduction in the population of breeding female Mary River Tortoises of around 95% between 1970 and 2000".

The list uses a complex formula to highlight species that are particularly Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE), providing wildlife scientists worldwide with a scientifically rigorous way of focusing their conservation efforts.

While striking in both appearance and ability, the Mary River turtle may not be the next Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, but it is now one of the most endangered species on the planet.


The Mary River turtle's punk-like green mohawk might seem like a rebellious fashion choice, but that's just green algae.

Almost half a century ago, people fascinated by the weird turtle started keeping it as a pet. Back in the '90s, when a Sydney turtle enthusiast rediscovered the species in Queensland, experts classified it as new.

This odd turtle is one of several species of cloaca-breathing turtles, which breathe underwater using specialised glands in their reproductive organs.

'They survived in good numbers for millions of years. "Then along came the pigs and foxes, and on top of the native predators and people - that's what has made them endangered".

- Of the ones we do know, 1,204 mammal, 1,469 bird, 1,215 reptile, 2,100 amphibian, and 2,386 fish species are considered threatened.

Topping the list overall, with an EDGE score higher than that of any amphibian, bird or mammal, is the Madagascan big-headed turtle (Erymnochelys madagascariensis), while various geckos, chameleons and snakes also feature, including the Round Island keel-scaled boa (Casarea dussumieri), ranked number 23 on the list.

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