The Mary River Turtle, informally known as the green-haired punk turtle, looks a little like a Pokémon, or maybe a child’s drawing come alive. This seriously unique turtle owes its nickname to the fact that many specimens are covered with growing strands of algae, which make them as if they have green hair. To make these little guys even more special, they have two finger-like spikes on their chin that add to their overall “punk rock” look. But that is still not all – the turtles use bimodal respiration and are capable of absorbing oxygen via the cloaca when they are underwater. That is, they basically can breathe through their genitals.
Unfortunately, the reason why pictures of these green-haired punk turtles have been in the news lately is far from positive. The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) recently released a new list of the most vulnerable reptile species – among them, our green-haired hero. The turtle is number 29 on the ZSL’s Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (Edge) list for reptiles.
Despite the species being in danger, Australia, the home country of the turtle, has no plan to protect this remarkable animal. The Mary River Turtle is one of the country’s largest turtles and is found exclusively in the Mary River in Queensland – which makes efforts at helping them survive in the area indispensable.
“Reptiles often receive the short end of the stick in conservation terms, compared with the likes of birds and mammals,” Rikki Gumbs, co-ordinator of Edge reptiles, told the Guardian. “However, the Edge reptiles list highlights just how unique, vulnerable and amazing these creatures really are. Many Edge reptiles are the sole survivors of ancient lineages, whose branches of the tree of life stretch back to the age of the dinosaurs. If we lose these species there will be nothing like them left on Earth.”
The Mary River Turtle is one of the most fascinating reptile species and its disappearance would be a huge loss. These special turtles now need our help to survive and thrive in their natural habitat. Click here to sign a petition urging the Australian government to protect the Mary River Turtle now!
Image source: Chris van Wyk/Edge