Northern snake-necked turtle

Northern snake-necked turtle

Northern snake-necked turtle, Northern long-necked turtle

Chelodina rugosa

The northern snake-necked turtle or northern long-necked turtle (Chelodina (Chelydera) rugosa ) is a species of turtle in the family Chelidae or Austro-South American Side-necked Turtles. It is native to northern Australia and southern New Guinea.

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The species was described in 1890 from material collected in Cape York of Queensland, Australia. The species has in recent years had several species of turtle synonymised with it, the distribution includes northern Australia, Indonesia and Pitcairn. As a member of the sub-family Pleurodira this species is a side-necked turtle and also a snake-necked strike and gape predator. This carnivorous turtle will consume fish, tadpoles, hatchling turtles, worms, crickets, etc.

It is not an aggressive species with a biting defense. Individuals tend to flail to escape rather than bite. This species can be found not only in fresh water, but due to the proximity of the south New Guinea coast and close off shore islands, it also can be found in brackish water. Chelodina rugosa tends to hide under and between rocks and logs where possible or buries itself in the mud to act as an ambush predator to fish, amphibian, and invertebrate prey. Sexual dimorphism is quite evident in this species. Females can be easily recognized by the very short, stubby tail.

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Animal name origin

The specific name, siebenrocki, is in honor of Austrian herpetologist Friedrich Siebenrock.



Biogeographical realms
Northern snake-necked turtle habitat map
Northern snake-necked turtle habitat map
Northern snake-necked turtle
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Habits and Lifestyle


Diet and Nutrition

Mating Habits

Like all turtles, the northern snake-necked turtle is oviparous. Unlike any other turtle, however, C. rugosa lays her eggs underwater. Aboriginal Australians have had knowledge of this reproductive behavior for many generations, but the first published report was by Kennett et al. in 1993. Nests are excavated in soft substrate in billabongs and other ephemeral bodies of slow-moving fresh water toward the end of the wet season (austral summer, Dec-April). An average of 12 eggs are buried under 6–20 cm of sediment in shallow (<2 m) water. As the dry season progresses and the waters recede, the nests eventually dry out, and only then - when atmospheric oxygen is available - do the embryos within the eggs resume growth. Exhibiting a reproductive strategy almost unique among reptiles, embryos of C. rugosa can survive at least 12 weeks of submersion. The hatchlings emerge approximately 70 days after resumption of development.


1. Northern snake-necked turtle Wikipedia article -
2. Northern snake-necked turtle on The IUCN Red List site -

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