The Mary River Turtle is famous for its punk rock style

Australia’s Mary River Turtle Is Certainly Unique

The first moment I saw the Mary River Turtle, a loud “WOAH” escaped my mouth without delay. How the hell is that even a turtle? And how did I not see this cool looking punk turtle up to this point in my life?

The Mary River turtle is found only in the Mary River of southeast Queensland, Australia. Although it is one of Australia’s largest freshwater turtles, it only received official scientific recognition in the 1990s.

Photo by Chris Van Wyk via @earth_unreal on Instagram

Experts believe he managed to swim under the radar for so long because:

a) this river turtle can breathe underwater and

b) its shell collects algae, so it is often difficult to detect

Do they really have green “hair”?

Mary River Turtle
Image: @therealpunkturtle on Instagram

It would be really cool if they had green hair. Unfortunately, what is often the marker for the “green-haired turtle” isn’t actually a hair.

Green algae sprouts grow on its head and shell, creating their adorable punk-rock look. Growing algae accumulate on the shell and form a disguise that helps them hide from predators.

Oh, and they breathe through their genitals…

Mary River Turtle
Image: @live_encyclopedia on Instagram

Another very interesting thing about the Mary River turtle is that it breathes through the “cloaca” when underwater. The cloaca is a bimodal breathing method, performed through the turtles’ genitals which are responsible for excretion and mating.

Because of this, they can breathe underwater for up to three days at a time! Experts believe this is the reason the turtle went undetected until 1994.

Mary River Turtle
Image: @dixon.dental on Instagram

The Mary River Turtle is one of Australia’s largest turtle species. They also have super long tails for a turtle, long barbels under their mandible, and the largest hind legs of any species in that particular basin. For this reason, they are also the fastest swimming turtles!

Today they are among the most endangered reptiles in the world

Mary River Turtle
Image: @fame_species on Instagram

So basically some jerks in the 60s and 70s used to raid this turtle’s nest and sell 15,000 baby turtles a year to pet stores. It lasted more than ten years. They were once known as the “penny turtle” or the “pet store turtle”. They were popular pets due to their gentle nature. Sniff.

What was not clear at the time, however, is that this precious endangered turtle does not reach sexual maturity until it is 25 years old! For this reason, they do not have babies until they are 25 years old. You can imagine the problem this presents when it comes to regenerating all the damage that was done in previous decades. This poor turtle cannot contribute to the population for a quarter of a century!

Mary River Turtle
Image: @hannahgtodd on Instagram

In addition, other factors contribute to the decline of its species. Collecting eggs for the pet trade kicked off, but now there’s a lot going on in the Mary River area that puts the punk rock turtle in danger.

Red foxes, while dogs and even fish feed on the valuable eggs of this endangered turtle. Add to that deteriorating water quality due to land clearing and runoff, and invasive plants along the shoreline, and it’s a sad situation.

Mary River Turtle
Image: @skyring_estate_belli_park on Instagram

If you would like to help this ancient species survive for generations to come, check out this page and make a donation. Everything will help the brave humans who dedicate their lives to saving these and other endangered species!

Related: World Turtle Day meets the Grateful Dead in this amazing cover!

Diana J. Carleton