Won­der tur­tle from Down Un­der

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

SYD­NEY: Aus­tralia’s Mary River Tur­tle – with its green Mo­hi­can-style hair and abil­ity to breathe through its gen­i­tals – is one of the world’s most dis­tinc­tive rep­tiles.

It’s now of­fi­cially among the most en­dan­gered. The “punk tur­tle” has been ranked 29th on the Zoo­log­i­cal So­ci­ety of Lon­don’s Evo­lu­tion­ary Dis­tinct and Glob­ally En­dan­gered list, trig­ger­ing calls for bet­ter pro­tec­tion of the rep­tile found on Aus­tralia’s east coast.

“You have to go back about 50 mil­lion years to find a closely re­lated species,” said Mar­i­lyn Con­nell of Aus­tralia’s Charles Dar­win Univer­sity. “It would be a fail­ure if we let this an­i­mal that walked along­side di­nosaurs be­come ex­tinct.”

Once a pop­u­lar pet in Aus­tralia, the ex­act pop­u­la­tion of the tur­tle is un­known, the zoo­log­i­cal so­ci­ety said. Its dis­tinc­tive hairdo con­sists of strands of al­gae that grow on its head.

Re­search was ham­pered in 1974 when traders re­fused to re­veal the habi­tat of what were known as “Penny Tur­tles” af­ter Aus­tralia out­lawed the prac­tice of keep­ing them as pets. Nearly 20 years later, tur­tle en­thu­si­ast John Cann re­dis­cov­ered them in the Mary River in Queens­land.

“They sur­vived in good num­bers for mil­lions of years. Then came the pigs and foxes, and on top the na­tive preda­tors and peo­ple,” he said. – Reuters

PIC­TURE: CHRIS VAN WYK/via REUTERS

The strik­ing Mary River Tur­tle found in Queens­land, Aus­tralia.

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