Genital-breathing ‘punk turtle’ joins endangered species list

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By Alice Cuddy
Genital-breathing ‘punk turtle’ joins endangered species list
Copyright  Chris Van Wyk/via REUTERS

An Australian river turtle with bright green ‘hair’, spikes under its chin and the ability to breathe through its genitals is featured on a new list of endangered reptiles.

The Mary River turtle, native to the Australian state of Queensland, is placed at 30th on the Zoological Society of London’s Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) list for reptiles.

Established in 2007, EDGE lists have previously been published for amphibians, birds, corals and mammals, helping to guide conservation priorities for the most at-risk species. The new list ranks reptiles on a combination of how endangered and unusual they are.

The Mary River turtle can stay underwater for up to three days by breathing through its genitals, with the species usually developing a green mohawk as a result of algae growing on their heads because of extended time submerged.

Chris Van Wyk/via REUTERS

The building of dams and collection of eggs for the pet trade have led to the decline of the species, according to EDGE.

Other reptiles featured on the new list include chameleons the size of a human thumbnail, a blind species of snake found only in Madagascar and the world’s largest turtle.

“Reptiles often receive the short end of the stick in conservation terms, compared with the likes of birds and mammals. However, the EDGE Reptile List highlights just how unique, vulnerable and amazing these creatures really are,” EDGE reptiles co-ordinator Rikki Gumbs said in a statement.

“Just as with tigers, rhinos and elephants, it is vital we do our utmost to save these unique and too often overlooked animals. Many EDGE Reptiles are the sole survivors of ancient lineages... If we lose these species there will be nothing like them left on Earth.”