Murray River Short-necked Turtle - Reptile Encounters

Murray River Short-necked Turtle

Scientific name:

Emydura macquarii macquarii

Other names:

Murray River Tortoise. Other subspecies known by other names as well


Vulnerable (Vic, SA)

Adults have a pale stripe extending along the lower jaw and to the neck. Shell is broadly oval in shape. Dorsal colour is pale olive to brown, and the plastron is white or yellow. Males have a very long, thickened tail which is far larger than the female’s tail. Female carapace length can reach 34cm, males approx 30cm.

Very variable diet, with juveniles consuming more animal matter and slowly increasing their plant intake as they grow. Aquatic plants and filamentous algae are a large part of the diet of adults. They will also scavenge, and a large part of an adult of this species’ diet is dead fish, which can be ripped up with their claws into smaller chunks.

Rivers, creeks, ponds and lakes, from the relatively slow-moving waters of lagoons to the open waters of main rivers.

Throughout the Murray-Darling basin, from SA, through northern VIC, NSW and into QLD. Species has been introduced to new localities via the pet trade and has become established in new river systems eg. the species is now found throughout the Melbourne area, despite originally not coming much further south than the Goulburn River in Yea.

Often seen basking on half-submerged logs, this species is found throughout the Murray-Darling basin. It shows considerable variation throughout this range and although this subspecies (Emydura macquarii macquarii) is the most widespread, several other subspecies are recognised. One subspecies (Krefft’s turtle E. m. krefftii) was recently named as its own species (E. krefftii) and two other subspecies, the Cooper Creek turtle (E. m. emmotti) and the Fraser Island short-necked turtle (E. m. nigra) are now both considered subspecies of the Krefft’s.

During late spring and early summer, Murray River short-necked turtles lay between 6 and 25 eggs on the bank of a waterbody, which take between 66 and 85 days to incubate

This medium-sized freshwater turtle was once considered very common, and many places it still is. It can be abundant in sewage treatment ponds, where algae flourishes. That said, it is now considered ‘Vulnerable’ in the southern parts of it’s range. An aging population in Victoria suggests that there is very little recruitment occurring; basically, not enough babies are surviving to become part of the breeding population. It’s thought that around 95% of turtle nests are being predated, and a whopping 93% is by the red fox, an introduced pest.
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