Matamata Turtle

The Matamata Turtle (Chelus fimbriata) is a large, freshwater reptile. 

The Matamata Turtle has a brown or black upper shell, called a carapace, that looks like the bark of a tree. Its lower shell, called the plastron, is creamy-yellow or brown, narrow, and without a hinge. 

It has a large, triangular-shaped, flattened grey-brown head, with spiky, ridged scales called tubercles. It has flaps of loose skin. It has a horn-like structure on its head and a long, tubular snout (nose). There are three barbels (similar to thick whiskers) on its chin and another four barbels at its upper jaw. Its neck, tail, and legs are grey-brown. Its feet have five webbed claws to enable it to walk on land, dig and swim. 

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Snapping Turtle

The Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentine) is a freshwater, aquatic reptile. It is also known as the Snapper or the Common Snapping Turtle. 

The Snapping Turtle has powerful beak-like jaws. It has a slightly domed, serrated-edged (saw-toothed) upper shell, called a carapace. The lower shell, called the plastron, is narrower than the upper shell. It has a long tail – as long as the upper shell – and a long, snake-like neck. It is mostly greyish-brown. It has stumpy legs with claws, and webbing between the claws, which enable it to walk on land and swim in water. It does not have flippers like the sea turtle. 

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European Pond Turtle

The European Pond Turtle (Emys orbicularis) is a medium-sized freshwater wetland chelonian, and a reptile. It is also known as the European Pond Terrapin because it lives some of the time on land and some of the time in water. It has webbed toes to enable it to swim and walk on land.

The European Pond Turtle has a brown flattish shell, called a carapace, with a green tinge and radiating black lines. It has large brown eyes.

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Annam Leaf Turtle

The Annam Leaf Turtle (Mauremys annamensis) is a small, rare reptile in the chelonian family of tortoises, turtles, and terrapins. It is also known as the Vietnamese Pond Turtle. It is actually a terrapin, and not a turtle, because it does not have flippers. It lives some of the time on land and some of the time in water. It has webbed toes (instead of flippers) to enable it to swim in water and walk on land.

The Annam Leaf Turtle has a dark-brown flattish carapace (upper shell) and a yellow-orange plastron (lower shell) with a black blotch on each scale. The scale is called a scute. It has a wide head with a pale-yellow stripe from its nostrils, through its eyes, and along its neck.

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Chinese Softshell Turtle

The Chinese Softshell Turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis) is a freshwater chelonian and a reptile. It is called softshell because its shell does not have scales – instead, its shell is leathery and flexible, which enables it to move more easily at the bottom of muddy lakes.

The Chinese Softshell Turtle has an olive-green upper shell, called a carapace. Its lower shell, called a plastron, is orange-red. Its legs and head are olive-green. It has dark flecks on its head and dark lines from its eyes. Its throat is mottled. It has a long snout (nose) and a short tail. It has flipper feet to enable it to swim in water.

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Black Spotted Turtle

The Black Spotted Turtle (Geoclemys hamiltonii) is a freshwater chelonian, and a reptile. It is also called the Black Pond Turtle or the Indian Spotted Turtle.

The Black Spotted Turtle is mainly black with small yellowish spots and streaks. Its upper shell, called a carapace, is domed. Its lower shell, called a plastron, is dark-coloured with creamy-yellow spots. It has a large head, with a short nose. It has webbed feet with claws. It has a very short tail.

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Roti Island Snake-Necked Turtle

The Roti Island Snake-Necked Turtle (Chelodina mccordi) is a freshwater chelonian reptile. It is also known as McCord’s Snakeneck Turtle.

The Roti Island Snake-Necked Turtle has a pale grey-brown slightly-domed carapace (upper shell) and a pale buff-white plastron (lower underbelly shell). Its neck is very long – about the same size as its shell – and is dark-brown on the upperparts and whitish on the underparts. It has webbed feet with sharp claws. It has dark eyes.

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Fallacy: Tortoises will come out of their shell if they are frightened

Tortoises and turtles will come out of their shell if frightened. This is not true. This is a fallacy.

Actually, the reverse is true. Tortoises pull their head and feet into their shell so that predators cannot harm or eat them. They are too slow to run away, so hiding in their shell is their way of protecting themselves.

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African Helmeted Terrapin

The African Helmeted Terrapin (Pelomedusa subrufa) is also known as the Marsh Terrapin, the Crocodile Terrapin, or the African Side-Necked Terrapin. It is a semi-aquatic reptile from Africa, like tortoises and turtles – a chelonian.

The African Helmeted Terrapin looks like a helmet. Instead of its neck sticking in and out, it has a side-necked position where it places its head sideways in its shell. It black or brown shell (carapace) is slightly domed. Its tail and legs are grey-brown, and its underbelly is yellowish. The male has a long thick tail. The female has a shorter tail.

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Turtleneck Sweater

What is a turtleneck sweater?

A turtleneck sweater is also called a polo neck sweater ora rolled neck sweater.

A turtleneck sweater is garment for men and women. It is made of wool or cotton and is tight-fitting with a high collar around the neck that rolls over to cover the neck.

It is called a turtleneck sweater because a person’s neck is hidden, like a turtle or tortoise.


Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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Chelonians – hidden neck or side neck?

Tortoises and turtles are called Chelonia.

In the order Testudines (tortoise-like or turtle-like), there are two suborders: Cryptodira (hidden neck) and Pleurodira (side neck).

Cryptodira means that the chelonians pull their neck right into their shell—most chelonians are in this category. Their necks go in and out.

Pleurodira means that the chelonians tuck their neck sideways under their shell.

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Tortoises and Turtles: Flat shell or domed shell?

What is the difference between flat-shelled or dome-shelled tortoises and turtles?

The tortoise has a domed shell. The tortoise lives on land. The domed shell is heavy and acts like a shield or armour to protect them from predators.

The turtle has a flat shell. The turtle lives in water. Flat shells are lighter and better for swimming in water.

The terrapin has a flat shell. The terrapin lives partly on land and partly in the water.

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