Genital-breathing 'punk turtle' joins endangered species list

The Round Island keel-scaled boa

The Round Island keel-scaled boa

The turtle is 30th on a new list of reptiles in trouble put out by the Zoological Society of London. The Mary River Turtle takes an exceptionally long time to reach sexual maturity, with individuals not breeding before the age of 25.

Other unusual and endangered species include the Round Island keel-scaled boa from Mauritius, a snake which is the only terrestrial vertebrate known to have a hinged upper jaw; the minute leaf chameleon from Madagascar which is the size of a human thumbnail; and the gharial, a slender-snouted fish-eating freshwater crocodile.

"They have specialised organs in their cloaca which process oxygen from the surrounding water".

The Mary River turtle's punk-like green mohawk might seem like a rebellious fashion choice, but that's just green algae. Part of the problem is that they are extremely localised - only existing in the Mary River in Queensland.

Recognized as a species apart only in 1994, this turtle suffered from its popularity as a pet in the 1970s and 80s.

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Established in 2007, EDGE lists have previously been published for amphibians, birds, corals and mammals, helping to guide conservation priorities for the most at-risk species.

Destruction of the creatures' natural habitat through the building of dams, as well as the collection of its eggs for the pet trade, piled on the survival pressure.

In an interview with The Guardian the co-ordinator of Edge reptiles, Rikki Gumbs explained how reptiles tend to be overlooked in comparison to birds and mammals when it comes to conservation.

This odd species, whose closest relative on the Tree of Life was declared extinct less than 30 years ago, can change colour over a 24-hour period and is also the only vertebrate with a joint in its upper jaw, used to capture and eat its lizard prey.

"Like tigers, rhinos and elephants, it is vital to do everything possible to save these unique and often neglected animals", he said.

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