- Boasting a green, punk hairdo and the unusual ability to breathe through its backside, an Australian turtle has become famous overnight — but not only for its eccentricity.
- Unfortunately, just as many people are discovering the Mary River Turtle’s tantalising traits, it has become the latest creature to join the “EDGE of Existence” list of endangered species compiled by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).
- A native of Queensland, Australia, the turtle was one of 100 reptiles added to the catalogue this week.
- It lives only in the Mary River from which it takes its name. The inventory has no shortage of weird and wonderful creatures — a limbless lizard, the world’s largest sea turtle, a blind snake, and a chameleon named after Tarzan. But the Mary River Turtle might just be the strangest of them all.
- The species is known to scientists as Elusor macrurus . It can breathe underwater through specialised glands in the cloaca — orifices through which the turtle excretes urine and waste, and lays eggs.
- This turtle is able to spend so much time underwater — up to three days — without coming up for air due to its strange ability to breathe through its bum.
- They have specialised organs in their cloaca which process oxygen from the surrounding water.
- But perhaps the computer screen-sized turtle’s most distinguishing feature is the bright green, spiky mohawks sprouting on the heads of some.
- This is not hair, but algae. “The Mary River Turtle spends so much time submerged underwater that some individuals become covered in algae — and can end up with some pretty impressive bright green hairstyles.
- According to Australia’s department of the environment, the Mary River Turtle’s rapid decline was sparked by its popularity as a house pet in the 1970s and 80s, known then as the “Penny Turtle”.
- The creature was only recognised and listed as a distinct species in 1994.
- “The Mary River Turtle takes an exceptionally long time to reach sexual maturity, with individuals not breeding before the age of 25,