Submerging saves rare bottom-breathing turtles

Aug 04, 2006
Submerging saves rare bottom-breathing turtles
Natalie Mathie with rare Mary River Turtle hatchlings. Photo: Jeremy Patten

The endangered Mary River Turtle has learned the perfect way to avoid being eaten — stay underwater. UQ PhD student Natalie Mathie, who has been studying Mary River hatchlings for the last two years, has shown that the turtle can stay submerged for at least three days, possibly up to a week in the right conditions.

Ms Mathie said unlike most fresh water turtles, the Mary River Turtle could extract about half of its oxygen requirements from river water using special sacs in its bottom.

The endangered Mary River Turtle is unique to the Mary River and it's believed only hundreds of eggs are laid each breeding season.

Ms Mathie, with UQ's School of Integrative Biology, has been studying how changes in water temperature, oxygen levels and also the presence of predators affect the turtles' respiration and diving behaviour.

She believes their diving is a survival strategy to lessen their chance of being eaten by birds on the surface or by fish and eels.

She also tested the turtles' performance in cooler and hotter temperatures and found that they didn't adapt well to any temperature changes.

Ms Mathie said the Mary River Turtle was under threat because turtle eggs were being eaten by cats, dogs and foxes or their nests were being trampled by cows along the river.

She is also worried about how the planned Traveston Dam will change the Mary River landscape and damage turtle habitat washing away undercut banks, nesting banks, fallen logs and well oxygenated streams.

She said the Mary River Turtles needed riffle zones, which were shallow rocky areas that ran into big pools keeping water oxygen levels high.

“The Dam will have a lot less oxygen and it will also be cooler because it's deeper.”

Ms Mathie, who has been supported by the local Tiaro Landcare group, will soon fix depth recorders and transmitters to the shells of adult turtles.

She said this would allow her to exactly measure their diving rates and where and how far away they were living and nesting.

Source: University of Queensland

Explore further: Free the seed: OSSI nurtures growing plants without patent barriers

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Rare turtle spotted in the Rio Grande

Mar 05, 2014

This Valentine's Day (14 February) a team of young Belizean conservationists came across the Critically Endangered Hicatee, otherwise known as the Central American river turtle (Dermatemys mawii). For many ...

Children's garden in Dallas aims to teach science

Sep 27, 2013

From a shaded area where toddlers can climb on a wooden ant or partake in a plant petting zoo, to a place where older kids can shoot water pistols at turbines and watch the energy they created set off water ...

Climate change threatens endangered freshwater turtle

Jul 03, 2011

The Mary river turtle (Elusor macrurus), which is restricted to only one river system in Australia, will suffer from multiple problems if temperatures predicted under climate change are reached, researchers from t ...

Recommended for you

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

20 hours ago

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Researchers successfully clone adult human stem cells

(Phys.org) —An international team of researchers, led by Robert Lanza, of Advanced Cell Technology, has announced that they have performed the first successful cloning of adult human skin cells into stem ...

Plants with dormant seeds give rise to more species

Seeds that sprout as soon as they're planted may be good news for a garden. But wild plants need to be more careful. In the wild, a plant whose seeds sprouted at the first warm spell or rainy day would risk disaster. More ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...