Punk Turtle with Cute Mohawk Is Among the Latest Reptiles Regarded as Endangered

The latest internet sensation is a cute punk turtle who’s sporting a green mohawk and some unusual biological traits. This star is no other than the Mary River Turtle, an Australian species that has stolen the spotlight. However, its crazy looks are not the only thing that attracts attention. The animal has just been included on a list of endangered species put up by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which is suggestively called “The Edge of Existence.”

This week has been a bad one for biodiversity. The “Edge of Existence” endangered species list has received 100 reptiles whose life is in great danger. This list has plenty of exquisite appearances, including the biggest sea turtle in the world, a snake that cannot see, or a lizard that has no limbs. However, the most interesting entry is, by all means, the punk turtle.

Unique Breathing System

This interesting species, scientifically known as Elusor macrurus, comes from Queensland, Australia, and got its name from the area where it lives: Mary River. While its unique looks are the first that catch your eye, the turtle has other interesting traits as well. It doesn’t breathe underwater like any regular turtle, but uses the organs in its posterior.

This area is called the cloaca, and it houses the orifices through which the turtle lays eggs, but also releases urine and excrements. Apart from that, the cloaca also hides the breathing organs of the punk turtle. These specialized organs allow the creature to spend up to three days underwater without coming up for air.

Where Does the Mohawk Come From?

However, it’s hard to tell the punk turtle has this unique breathing system. What stands out about it is, of course, its hairstyle. The mohawk-looking green streaks on its head are algae, and they don’t cover the head of every individual.

In fact, the explanation for the appearance is also related to its breathing system. Since these turtles can spend so much time underwater, they often end up covered in algae. These often tend to stick to their heads, turning them into the punk rocker of the ocean.

Why Is the Punk Turtle an Endangered Species?

This time, we cannot blame climate change or pollution. The punk turtle populations have started growing thin in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Back then, they were among the most popular house pets in Australia. At the time, people called it the Penny Turtle and didn’t recognize it as an individual species. This only happened in 1994.

Afterward, human interference kept destroying the punk turtle populations. It takes a lot of time for an individual to be able to reproduce. They reach their sexual maturity around the age of 25, so this explains the relatively low number of specimens. Then, humans started collecting their eggs to sell the baby turtles as pets and kept destroying their habitat.

This explains the rapidly declining numbers of punk turtles and calls for immediate action. ZSL’s initiative to include more reptiles on endangered lists is laudable. Nowadays, people seem to pay more attention to vulnerable mammals and birds and tend to overlook the situation of reptiles. Knowing about their situation makes it easier to act and protect these creatures as well.

Researchers published a study in the journal PLOS One that talks about “Edge of Existence,” and other conservation efforts.

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William E. Eubanks

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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