Mary River Turtle | Elusor macrurus

Green-Haired, Genital-Breathing Turtle Added to Endangered Reptiles List

Australia's Mary River turtle can breathe through its butt and grow sweet Hot Topic-worthy mohawks.

Turtles that breathe through their genitals and tiny chameleons are amongst the weird reptiles heading for extinction unless urgent action is taken.

The list is unique in not only considering extinction threat, but also how evolutionarily unique a species is.

ZSL's Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) list highlights the Mary river turtle and 99 other species that are endangered and evolutionary unique to define them as priorities for conservation efforts.

It is also listed as an endangered species under Queensland's Nature Conservation Act 1992 and the 1999 Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, according to the Australian Department of the Environment and Energy.

Marilyn Connell, a researcher at Australia's Charles Darwin University said, "You have to go back about 50 million years to find a closely related species".

The ranks include classic characters like the leatherback sea turtle, the largest in the world, and more obscure members like the Mary River turtle, which sports tufts of green hair and can use its reproductive organs to breathe when it stays underwater for long periods of time.

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EDGE Reptiles co-ordinator Rikki Gumbs led the PLOS ONE paper as part of his PhD studies at ZSL and Imperial College London's Science and Solutions for a Changing Planet (SSCP) Doctoral Training Partnership.

"It would be a failure if we let this animal that walked alongside dinosaurs become extinct". According to the Zoological Society of London, nobody knows precisely the exact population of this turtle.

However, perhaps the Mary River turtle's most unusual feature is its ability to breath through its genitals.

It's worth noting that this turtle doesn't actually grow that insane hairdo naturally.

Given its name, its distinctive feature is its large head in comparison with its body, and a colouration that sometimes makes it appear as if it has a gold shell. Once, these turtles were known as "Penny Turtles".

Almost 20 years later, John Cann, a Sydney-based turtle enthusiast, rediscovered the turtle in the Mary River in Queensland.

Now, their habitat is fully protected. The turtles were already at risk of being endangered when they were formally described as a species in 1994. They survived millions of years and to see them go extinct now would be a awful shame.

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