Euphrates softshell turtle (Rafetus euphraticus)

loading
Euphrates softshell turtle
loading
Loading more images and videos...

Euphrates softshell turtle fact file

Euphrates softshell turtle description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderTestudines
FamilyTrionychidae
GenusRafetus (1)

The Euphrates softshell turtle (Rafetus euphraticus) is one of the least known species of the Trionychidae family (3). The name of this species comes from the fact that the carapace does not have horny plates like many turtles, and is instead made up of a tough, leathery skin which is covered with numerous hard tubercles (4).

The roundish, oval carapace of the Euphrates softshell turtle is dark olive-green (2) (4), with small whitish spots (4).

Synonyms
Testudo euphratica, Trionyx euphraticus.
Size
Length: up to 68 cm (2)
Top

Euphrates softshell turtle biology

The Euphrates softshell turtle is a thermophilic species, which means it prefers warmer temperatures (6). Being mostly aquatic, this species is an agile swimmer, but it can also move rapidly on land (4).

The Euphrates softshell turtle is largely carnivorous (6), and feeds on fish, molluscs, frogs and crustaceans (4). It sometimes eats plant material (6), and has even been reported to feed on carrion (7).

Very little is known about the reproductive biology of the Euphrates softshell turtle. However, studies have shown that, in the upper part of the Euphrates river, eggs are laid from the end of May to early June. The Euphrates softshell turtle digs a nest chamber in sand that is between 13 and 50 centimetres deep. The eggs are deposited in the bottom of the chamber, and have a round, hollow space above them (8).

Clutches of the Euphrates softshell turtle usually contain about 30 hard-shelled, spherical eggs, each of which weighs approximately 13.5 grams (8).

Top

Euphrates softshell turtle range

The Euphrates softshell turtle is endemic to the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and their tributaries, in south-eastern Turkey, north-eastern Syria, Iraq and south-western Iran (1) (2) (3) (5).

In Iran, the range of the Euphrates softshell turtle is limited to the rivers of Khuzestan Province (3) (5).

Top

Euphrates softshell turtle habitat

The Euphrates softshell turtle is a semi-aquatic species (1), with the relatively calm tributaries of larger rivers being its preferred habitat. This species is also found in oxbow lakes, which are formed when a wide meander from the main part of the river is cut off (6).

Top

Euphrates softshell turtle status

The Euphrates softshell turtle is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

Top

Euphrates softshell turtle threats

Habitat destruction, caused by damming projects along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, is a major threat to the Euphrates softshell turtle (2) (6) (8).

Dams cause changes in the environment by decreasing water temperatures, and by flooding sandy banks which are necessary for the Euphrates softshell turtle to nest on (6). It is thought that a population of this species was driven to extinction near Halfeti, Turkey, as a result of a drop in water temperature due to the construction of a dam 60 kilometres upstream (8).

An imminent threat to the Euphrates softshell turtle is the planned construction of a large dam, Ilisu, which will flood approximately 300 square kilometres of land along more than 136 kilometres of the Tigris river. The dam will significantly reduce the number of nesting and basking areas available for this species (8).

Pollution and poaching are also threats to the Euphrates softshell turtle (3) (5).

Top

Euphrates softshell turtle conservation

Proposed conservation measures include further studies into the biology and habitats of the Euphrates softshell turtle, as well as into the relationship between this species and local communities (5).

Top

Find out more

Find out more about freshwater turtles:

Learn more about reptile conservation:

Find out more about the habitat of this species:

Top

Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

Top

Glossary

Carapace
The top shell of a turtle or tortoise. In arthropods (insects, crabs etc), the fused head and thorax (the part of the body located near the head), also known as the ‘cephalothorax’.
Carnivorous
Feeding on flesh.
Carrion
The flesh of a dead animal.
Crustaceans
Diverse group of animals with jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton, characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, woodlice and barnacles.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Molluscs
A diverse group of invertebrates, mainly marine, that have one or all of the following: a horny, toothed ribbon in the mouth (the radula), a shell covering the upper surface of the body, and a mantle or mantle cavity with a type of gill. Includes snails, slugs, shellfish, octopuses and squid.
Tubercle
A small, rounded, wart-like bump on the skin or on a bone.
Top

References

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Franklin, C.J. (2007) Turtles: An Extraordinary Natural History 245 Million Years in the Making. Voyageur Press, Minneapolis.
  3. Ghaffari, H., Taskavak, E. and Karami, M. (2008) Conservation status of the Euphrates softshell turtle, Rafetus euphraticus, in Iran. Chelonian Conservation and Biology, 7(2): 223-229.
  4. Firouz, E. (2005) The Complete Fauna of Iran. I.B.Tauris, London.
  5. Karami, M., Riazi, B., Ghafari, H. and Taskavak, E. (2006) The study of Mesopotamian soft-shell turtle (Rafetus euphraticus) and its habitat in Iran. The Iranian Society of Environmentalists - Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, 27: 74-85.
  6. Taskavak, E. and Atatuer, M.K. (1998) Distribution and habitats of the Euphrates softshell turtle, Rafetus euphraticus, in southeastern Anatolia, Turkey, with observations on biology and factors endangering its survival. Chelonian Conservation and Biology, 3(1): 20-30.
  7. Moll, D. and Moll, E.O. (2004) The Ecology, Exploitation, and Conservation of River Turtles. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  8. Biricik, M. and Turğa, Ş. (2011) Description of an Euphrates softshell turtle (Rafetus euphraticus) nest from the Tigris River (SE Turkey). Salamandra, 47(2): 99-102.
X
Close

Image credit

Euphrates softshell turtle  
Euphrates softshell turtle

© Seyed Bagher Mousavi

Majid Alavy
Tel: +989166077759
majidhor2011@yahoo.com
http://www.houralazim.com

X
Close

Link to this photo

ARKive species - Euphrates softshell turtle (Rafetus euphraticus) Embed this ARKive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to ARKive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about

X
Close

MyARKive

MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

This species is featured in:

This species is featured in the Mediterranean Basin eco-region

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!

Blog