Northern Long-necked Turtle - Reptile Encounters

Northern Long-necked Turtle

Scientific name:

Chelodina rugosa

Other names:

Northern snake-necked turtle, Northern side-necked turtle


Near Threatened

Long thick neck with a broad, strongly depressed head. Carapace oval with no upturned edges. Dark black to brown above with yellow to cream below. All feet are webbed with claws. Carapace can get to 360mm long, with up to another 270mm of neck. Females are larger than males, with a short, stubby tail.

An ambush predator that uses its long neck to strike out and catch prey. Fish, tadpoles invertebrates and amphibians are usually taken, but there is a record of a large individual taking a Macleay’s water snake (Pseudoferania polylepis) – a snake species with an average length of 60cm!

Found in slowing-moving rivers, lakes and billabongs. Usually lives in freshwater, but can also frequently be seen in brackish habitats as we..

From Cape York to the Kimberley, as well as in southern Papua New Guinea.

Not normally known to be an aggressive turtle, they tend to flail around when trying to escape as opposed to trying to bite like other turtle species. They spend most of their time around submerged logs and snags where they can ambush passing prey, and will bury themselves in mud to stay hidden as well. If the watercourse the turtle lives in dries out, Northern long-necked turtles are known to bury themselves and enter a state of aestivation, and wait for the rains to come.

Northern long-necked turtles have an unusual method of egg-laying. Rather than haul themselves out of the water and bury their eggs on open ground, Northern long-necked turtles actually bury their eggs in soft mud on the river bank, but below the water line. The eggs develop up to a point, then enter a state of suspended animation until the water level drops. At this point, they continue to develop until it is time to hatch.
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