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Wattle-necked Softshell Turtle

Palea steindachneri
Wow, this week is becoming an unofficial Mascarene Islands theme week, and sort of by accident too! I came across today's animal while browsing around a site that listed the reptiles and amphibians of Hawaii. I zeroed in on a Softshell Turtle, as they are very interesting looking creatures... and what do you know, they've been introduced to Mauritius!

And though I found the animal in a Hawaiian context, they aren't native Hawaiians. The Wattle-necked Softshell Turtles are actually native to Vietnam and southern China, and were introduced to islands elsewhere. Interestingly, most of what we know of their biology and behavior comes from those Hawaiian individuals.

Wattle-necked Softshell Turtles belong to an entire family of Softshell Turtles, Trionychidae, but they are the only species in their genus. Like their cousins, they have flat shells covered with leathery skin rather than bony scutes. They also have long, retractable necks that have wattle clusters around the base (hence the name).

Unfortunately, like many other Softshell Turtles, the Wattle-necked Softshell Turtle is Endangered. This is due in part to their desirability in the food trade in Asia. Captive breeding farms have been set up to keep the wild Turtles from being hunted. But those farms may actually be hurting the Turtles, as they make the food more popular. The introduced populations in Hawaii and Mauritius may some day be the only populations left.

IUCN Status : Endangered
Location : Southeast Asia, Hawaii, Mauritius
Size : Length up to 10in (25cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Reptilia -- Order : Testudines
Family : Trionychidae -- Genus : Palea -- Species : P. steindachneri

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