Papua Softshell Turtles

Papuan softshell turtles can be recognized at a glance: They have an elongated nose reminiscent of a pig’s snout.


What does the Papua softshell turtle look like?

Papua softshell turtle belongs to the reptiles and there to the family of softshell turtles. Like all turtles, they have bony armor covering their entire body. They can tuck their head, front legs, and hind legs all the way under the shell. Unlike other tortoises, the shell is not covered with horny plates but is covered with leathery skin. In adult animals, the shell is up to 50 centimeters long. The ventral side shimmers pink.

The turtles have a round head. Their nose is elongated into that typical little proboscis. Their front legs have been modified into long, flat flippers with two toes. The hind legs are also flat and paddle-shaped, but you can still see the five toes on them.

Where does the Papua softshell turtle live?

As their name suggests, Papua softshell turtles are native to southern Papua New Guinea. But they also occur in northern Australia. Papua softshell turtles are purely water dwellers. The freshwater animals live in rivers and estuaries. They rarely paddle in brackish water. Brackish water is a bit salty, as it only occurs where rivers soon flow into the sea.

Which Papua softshell turtle species are there?

The Papuan softshell turtle is the only species in the softshell turtle family.

How old does the Papua softshell turtle get?

It is not known exactly what age Papua softshell turtles reach. Turtles generally live for many decades.


How do Papua softshell turtles live?

Not much is known about the Papuan softshell turtle. For a long time, only a few stuffed specimens from museums were known. For example, researchers only discovered in the middle of the last century that Papua softshell turtles are purely aquatic dwellers. The males spend their entire life in the water. Females only go ashore to lay their eggs. The little turtles then move quickly towards the water.

Most of the time the Papuan softshell turtles swim at the bottom of the water. There they look for food with their front legs in the ground. When they have found something to eat, they sniff their prey extensively. In the open water, Papua softshell turtles are also very adept at swimming and diving. Like all reptiles, Papua softshell turtles need to come to the surface to breathe. However, they only hold their small trunk above the water to breathe quickly.

In addition, they have another method of filling up on oxygen: They presumably absorb a large part of their oxygen requirement directly from the water via a dense network of fine veins in the oral cavity and the cloaca. This species shows how perfectly adapted they are to life in the water.

Friends and foes of the Papuan softshell turtle

Thanks to their solid shell, Papua softshell turtles are well protected from predators. Just not in front of man – their greatest enemy. In their homeland, Papuan softshell turtles are considered a delicacy. They are therefore caught and eaten.

How do Papua softshell turtles reproduce?

Female Papuan softshell turtles lay eggs. After mating, the females go ashore and lay their eggs in the ground. The baby turtles have to fend for themselves as soon as they hatch. Many of them fall prey to birds of prey and other predators on their way into the water.


What does the Papua softshell turtle eat?

Papuan softshell turtles like almost anything they find: small fish and crabs, of course. But they also like to smudge fruit, leaves, or grass that fall into the water. In zoos, they are fed bitter lettuces such as chicory. There is also fruit – pears, for example, are said to be particularly popular with the animals.

Husbandry of the Papua softshell turtle

Papuan softshell turtles are relatively rarely kept in zoos.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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