Friday 17 May
Euphrates softshell turtle (Rafetus euphraticus)
Euphrates softshell turtle fact file
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Euphrates softshell turtle description
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).
- Testudo euphratica, Trionyx euphraticus.
- Length: up to 68 cm (2)
IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group:
International Reptile Conservation Foundation:
ARKive - Mediterranean Basin:
- 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’.
- Feeding on flesh.
- The flesh of a dead animal.
- 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.
- A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- 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.
- A small, rounded, wart-like bump on the skin or on a bone.
IUCN Red List (November, 2011)
- Franklin, C.J. (2007) Turtles: An Extraordinary Natural History 245 Million Years in the Making. Voyageur Press, Minneapolis.
- 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.
- Firouz, E. (2005) The Complete Fauna of Iran. I.B.Tauris, London.
- 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.
- 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.
- Moll, D. and Moll, E.O. (2004) The Ecology, Exploitation, and Conservation of River Turtles. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- 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.
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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 rangeTop
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).Top
Euphrates softshell turtle threats
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).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
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