Yellowbelly mud turtle (Pelusios castanoides)

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Yellowbelly mud turtle in water with algae growing on shell
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Yellowbelly mud turtle fact file

Yellowbelly mud turtle description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderTestudines
FamilyPelomedusidae
GenusPelusios (1)

This medium-sized turtle has a long, elongated upper shell (carapace), which is yellowish, olive or black in East African and Madagascan populations, and dark with a marbled pattern of yellow and brown marks in the Seychelles subspecies. The lower shell (plastron) is yellow, as its common name suggests, with a dark border along the seams. The head is brown to olive-black, with a slightly protruding snout, and the legs and tail are yellow to brown. The male has a narrower shell than the female (particularly in the Seychelles chestnut-bellied mud turtle subspecies (P. c. intergularis)) and a longer, thicker tail (2).

Also known as
yellow-bellied hinged terrapin, yellow-bellied mud turtle.
Size
Carapace length: up to 23 cm (2)
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Yellowbelly mud turtle biology

The yellowbelly mud turtle feeds mainly on large pulmonate snails and floating water lettuce. The Seychelles chestnut-bellied mud turtle is reportedly nocturnal, and has been recorded eating invertebrates, fish, amphibians, fruit and other plant material (1) (2).

In the Seychelles, there is often fierce competition between males for access to females, with only the stronger individuals successfully managing to breed (1). Here, eggs are laid from December to January (1), while two captives from Malawi each laid 25 eggs at the end of September (2). During the dry season, this species aestivates in the mud (2).

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Yellowbelly mud turtle range

Two subspecies are currently recognised. The nominate subspecies, the East African yellow-bellied mud turtle (P. c. castanoides), ranges from Kenya in East Africa south to Swaziland and north-east South Africa, and also occurs on Madagascar (2) (3). The Seychelles chestnut-bellied mud turtle (P. c. intergularis) is endemic to the Seychelles, where it is found on Mahé, Cerf, Praslin, La Digue, Fregate and Silhouette islands (1).

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Yellowbelly mud turtle habitat

This semi-aquatic turtle is present in rivers, marshes and swamps (1) (2).

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Yellowbelly mud turtle status

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1). Subspecies: Seychelles chestnut-bellied mud turtle (P. c. intergularis) is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Yellowbelly mud turtle threats

While the East African yellow-bellied mud turtle (P. c. castanoides) is not considered threatened, the Seychelles chestnut-bellied mud turtle (P. c. intergularis) teeters on the brink of extinction, with fewer than 100 adults estimated to remain in the wild in 2002 (1). This subspecies has a restricted and fragmented range on a handful of small islands, and is experiencing ongoing declines as a result of habitat loss and deterioration caused by drainage, pollution (rubbish dumping, sewage and/or pesticide run-off), marsh invasion by water lettuce, and possibly predation (1) (4).

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Yellowbelly mud turtle conservation

The critically endangered Seychelles subspecies is protected under Seychelles law, and although absent from any formal reserves, the turtle’s range on Fregate and Silhouette are conservation managed areas (1). Effective conservation of this subspecies not only requires protection of its wetland habitats, however, but also the establishment of new populations within protected areas (4). To this end, the Nature Protection Trust of the Seychelles (NTPS) has established a captive breeding programme in which juveniles are reintroduced into secure reserves (4) (5).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For more information on the yellowbelly mud turtle see:

Turtles of the World (CD-ROM), by Ernst, C.H., Altenburg, R.G.M. and Barbour, R.W.:
http://nlbif.eti.uva.nl/bis/turtles.php?selected=beschrijving&menuentry=soorten&id=125

For more information on the Seychelles chestnut-bellied mud turtle and its conservation see:

Gerlach, J. & Canning, L. (2001) Range contractions in the Critically Endangered Seychelles terrapins (Pelusios spp.). Oryx, 35(4): 313 – 321. Available at:
http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/pdf/10.1046/j.1365-3008.2001.00203.x#search=%22Range%20contractions%20in%20the%20Critically%20Endangered%20Seychelles%20terrapins%22

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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

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Glossary

Aestivation
Period of dormancy occurring in hot, dry periods, analogous to hibernation in winter.
Carapace
The top shell of a turtle.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Nocturnal
Active at night.
Plastron
In reptiles, the lower shell of a turtle.
Pulmonate
Of or belonging to the Pulmonata, a subclass of gastropods including terrestrial snails and slugs and certain freshwater snails that are capable of breathing air through lung-like sacs.
Subspecies
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (July, 2006)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Turtles of the World (CD-ROM), by Ernst, C.H., Altenburg, R.G.M. and Barbour, R.W. (September, 2006)
    http://nlbif.eti.uva.nl/bis/turtles.php?selected=beschrijving&menuentry=soorten&id=125
  3. EMYSystem Species Pages: Pelusios castanoides (September, 2006)
    http://emys.geo.orst.edu/collection/species/Pelusioscastanoides/Pelusioscastanoides.html
  4. Gerlach, J. and Canning, L. (2001) Range contractions in the Critically Endangered Seychelles terrapins (Pelusios spp.). Oryx, 35(4): 313 - 321. Available at:
    http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/pdf/10.1046/j.1365-3008.2001.00203.x#search=%22Range%20contractions%20in%20the%20Critically%20Endangered%20Seychelles%20terrapins%22
  5. Nature Protection Trust of Seychelles (December, 2008)
    http://islandbiodiversity.com
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Image credit

Yellowbelly mud turtle in water with algae growing on shell  
Yellowbelly mud turtle in water with algae growing on shell

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