Added 8 April 2003. Last updated 15 January 2011: added French and German common names.


Genus Common Name No. of species Location Notes
Carettochelys Pignose Turtle/ Fly River Turtle/ Pitted-Shell Turtle/ New Guinea Plateless Turtle/ Pig-Nosed Softshell [D: Fr: Tortue à nez de cochon] 1 Southern New Guinea (vicinity of Fly River) and Australia (Northern Territory in vicinity of Daly River, Victoria River and Alligator River Systems) The sole species in this family is Carettochelys insculpta. This heavy-bodied turtle has some affinity with proper marine turtles, as can be seen from its flipper-like feet, which have just two free claws. Also the bridges at the sides of the shell are relatively weak, as in marine species. Despite the common name of "Pig-Nosed Softshell", it is not a true softshell: although it lacks visible scutes, the bone structure of the plastron is rigid and there is not the central opening associated with softshells. The carapace is covered a layer of skin which develops a wrinkled appearance. Sutures on the carapace are indicated by grooves in the skin. The plastron is small and not completely rigidly fused together, certain of the bony plates being linked by cartilage instead of bone. The skin looks pitted, and the snout is rather pig-like in appearance. The species is found in freshwater and estuarine stretches of larger rivers and (at least in Australia) also in large waterholes and lagoons isolated during the dry season. It seems to mostly walk on the riverbed, coming up occasionally for air (the snout-like nose allows it to remain submerged longer). Diet is omnivorous, consisting mainly of small fish, snails, fruit (esp. fig and pandanus in Australia) and some vegetable matter. Captives apparently show a preference for pears. The Australian population was only discovered in 1969, and there has been speculation as to whether it was formed by migrants crossing the sea from New Guinea. The Kiwai tribe of New Guinea consider the species sacred. Müller recommends Carettochelys as best suited for zoos only. Coloration: dorsally rich grey, olive-grey or grey-brown, ventrally cream or yellowish. There is a pale streak behind the eye, which has a reddish iris. Limbs are dark olive on the upper surfaces. Reproduction: in New Guinea in Sept-Nov towards end of dry season. Females dig small holes at night on high sandbanks and lay 15-20 eggs (max. clutch size 27). In Australia eggs are laid in river sandbanks in late dry season. Embryos when developed enter a dormant stage until the nest is flooded by the rising river when the wet season starts. Hatchlings are about 2" long, with serrated edges on the carapace and some visible traces of scutes. Growth rate is apparently slow: a Bronx Zoo specimen lived at least 20 years.


Turtles and Tortoises of the World, David Alderton.

Schildkröten, Gerhard Müller.

Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia, 6th edition, Harold Cogger

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