Chelodina burrungandjii Thomson, Kenneth and Georges 2000-Sandstone Snake-Necked Turtle

Scott THOMSON, Rod Kennett, Nancy FitzSimmons, Phillipa Featherston, Erika Alacs, Arthur Georges

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Chelodina (Macrochelodina) burrungandjii, the Sandstone Snake-necked Turtle (Family Chelidae), is a medium-sized turtle (carapace length to 316 mm) that occupies the sandstone plateaus and associated escarpments and plunge pools of Arnhem Land and the Kimberley Region of tropical northern Australia. First collected by scientists some 20 years ago, research on the species has been hampered by its isolation-its range is sparsely inhabited, rugged sandstone country. The species can be diagnosed by its broad and flattened skull and by the contact of the vomer and the pterygoids and shows marked differences in life history and ecology from its closest relative, Chelodina rugosa. These two species are found together in the rivers that drain the Arnhem Land Plateau, but are broadly parapatric, with C. burrungandjii occupying the streams and associated pools of the uplands and C. rugosa occupying the floodplains and billabongs of the lowlands. Where their distributions come in contact in the Arnhem Land region, there is evidence of hybridization and widespread introgression. This may also occur near the northern border of Western Australia and the Northern Territory but does not occur in the Kimberley Region, which is outside the range of C. rugosa. It is not known whether there will be adverse impacts on C. burrungandjii from the recent invasion of its range by the exotic and toxic cane toad, Rhinella marina, but its congener C. rugosa is reasonably susceptible to the toxins when administered experimentally. Chelodina burrungandjii is harvested by Aboriginal peoples throughout its range to varying degrees. The species is not considered to be threatened, though populations of this species are small, isolated, and potentially subject to risk from overharvest or collecting for trade, or toxically from cane toad ingestion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
JournalChelonian Research Monographs
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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