Australian Saw-shelled Turtles
E purvisi4
Physical description
Binomial nameChelodina longicollis
Lifespan100 years
Average Size25 cm
Average weight3.0 kgs
Conservational Status
IUCN statusIUCN 3.1
Scientific classification
Distribution of speciesNSW, Northern Territory and Queensland, Australia

The Australian Saw Shelled Turtles, Myuchelys, are a genus of turtles in the family Chelidae. They inhabit the headwaters and tributaries of rivers within their range and this led to the name Myuchelys, which is formed from the Aboriginal words Myuna meaning high water and chelys meaning turtle.[1] They have a short neck and the intergular scute completely separates the gular scutes. They have no alveolar ridge separating them from the Snapping Turtles of the genus Elseya.

The genus currently contains five rather cryptic small species of freshwater turtles, endemic to eastern and northern Australia and southern New Guinea, Irian Jaya.

  • The Saw-Shelled Turtle, Myuchelys latisternum Gray, 1867[2]
  • Bellinger River Snapping Turtle, Myuchelys georgesi Cann, 1997[3]
  • Manning River Snapping Turtle, Myuchelys purvisi Wells & Wellington, 1985[4]
  • Namoi River Snapping Turtle, Myuchelys belli Gray, 1844[5]
  • New Guinea Snapping Turtle, Myuchelys novaeguineae Meyer, 1874[6]. This taxa has been moved to Myuchelys on the basis of DNA analysis by Georges & Thomson, 2010.[7] The species Elseya schultzei Vogt, 1911[8] was considered a subspecies of Myuchelys novaeguineae by Artner (2008[9]) and is followed here for the time being.

Taxonomic HistoryEdit

The members of this genus have had a long and unfortunate history with regards to their placement[7]. The species M. latisternum was originally placed in the genus Elseya by Gray, 1867[2] but the Elseya was redifined by Boulenger, 1889[10] to include species defined by the presence of an alveolar ridge. Hence Myuchelys latisternum and Myuchelys novaeguineae were moved to the genus Emydura. In 1967 the two species were placed back in the genus Elseya by Goode, 1967[11] where they remained until recently.

During the time the species Myuchelys belli was basically lost to knowledge having been misidentified as a South American species when described by Gray, 1844[5] and was in the genus Phrynops until this oversight was corrected by Cann, 1998[12]. The species Myuchelys georgesi and Myuchelys purvisi are recent editions initially placed in the genus Elseya but were identified as belonging to a unique clade along with Myuchelys latisternum and Myuchelys belli by Georges and Adams, 1992[13] using electrophoresis.

The unfortunate history of the genus now came to play. The genus name Wollumbinia was erected by Wells, 2007[14], however, some recent publications have claimed that this paper is in breach of the ICZN code defining a valid publication, ICZN Articles 8 and 9 and Recommendation 8D.[7][15] If this is correct, then the name should not be used[7][15][16]. Since the PDF version of the Wollumbinia paper clearly states that it is secondary to a paper version which is available upon request (not printed on request, but available on request)[14], Wells' name Wollumbinia would appear to have been published in full compliance with ICZN Article 8 and ICZN Article 9. There is no proof in any published source that no original printed run of the article was made available in 2007, and the PDF clearly states that it was[14]. Therefore, it must be given the benefit of any doubt, by the Principle of charity. The reader can decide for themselves whether the issue here is "science" or just "politics", and whether there is any solid factual basis for rejecting Wells' name for this taxon. The genus encompassing these species was named Myuchelys by Thomson and Georges, 2009[1] and the last species, Myuchelys novaeguineae, added to it by Georges and Thomson, 2010[7].


  1. 1.0 1.1 Thomson, S. & Georges, A. (2009) Myuchelys gen. nov. —a new genus for Elseya latisternum and related forms of Australian freshwater turtle (Testudines: Pleurodira: Chelidae) Zootaxa 2053: 32–42.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Gray, J.E. 1867. Description of a new Australian tortoise. Annals and Magazine of Natural History. 3(20):43-45
  3. Cann, J. 1998a. Georges short-neck turtle. Monitor 9(1):18-23.
  4. Wells, R.W. and Wellington, C.R. 1985. A classification of the amphibia and reptilia of Australia. Australian Journal of Herpetology, Supplementary Series. 1:1-61.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Gray, J. E. 1844. Catalogue of the Tortoises, Crocodiles and Amphibaenians in the Collection of the British Museum. London. Edward Newman. 80pp.
  6. Meyer, A.B. 1874. Platemys novaeguineae sp. nov. Dr W.H. Peters legte vor: Eine mitteilung von Hrn. Adolf Bernhard Meyer uber die von ihm auf Neu-Guinea under den Inseln Jobi, Mysore und Mafoor im Jahre 1873 gesammelten Amphibien. Monatsber. Konig. Preuss. Akad. Wiss. Berlin. 39:128-140.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Georges, A. & Thomson, S. 2010. Diversity of Australasian freshwater turtles, with an annotated synonymy and keys to species. Zootaxa 2496: 1–37.
  8. Vogt, T. 1911. Emydura schultzei, sp. nov. Reptilien und Amphibien aus Neu Guinea. Sber. ges. naturf. Freunde, Berl. 9:410-412.
  9. Artner, H. 2008. The world's extant turtle species, Part 1. Emys, 15, 4-32.
  10. Boulenger, G.A. (1889) Catalogue of the Chelonians, Rhynchocephalians, and Crocodiles in the British Museum (Natural History). British Museum, London.
  11. Goode, J. (1967) Freshwater Tortoises of Australia and New Guinea (in the Family Chelidae). Lansdowne Press, Melbourne.
  12. Cann, J. (1998) Australian Freshwater Turtles. Beaumont Publishing, Singapore.
  13. Georges, A. & Adams, M. (1992) A phylogeny for Australian chelid turtles based on allozyme electrophoresis. Australian Journal of Zoology, 40, 453–476.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 Wells, R.W. (2007) Some taxonomic and nomenclatural considerations on the Class Reptilia in Australia. A new genus of the Family Chelidae from eastern Australia. "Australian Biodiversity Record", 2007(3), 1–12. ISSN: 1325-2992
  15. 15.0 15.1 Fritz, U. & Havaš, P. (2007) Checklist of chelonians of the world. Vertebrate Zoology (Dresden), 57, 149–368.
  16. Anders G.J. Rhodin, Peter Paul van Dijk, John B. Iverson, and H. Bradley Shaffer. 2010. Turtles of the World, 2010 Update: Annotated Checklist of Taxonomy, Synonymy, Distribution, and Conservation Status

External linksEdit

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