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Green-Haired Turtle That Breathes Through Its Genitals Now An Endangered Species Due To Pet Trade

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The Mary river turtle (Elusor macrurus) is one of the of the most remarkable creatures on our planet. It features a distinct green punk-rock hairstyle and finger-like growths under its chin.

Butt Breather

The reptile also has the unique ability to breathe underwater through its genitals. The butt breather can stay underwater for up to three days.

This ability accounts for these creatures having the vibrant green mohawk caused by algae growing on their heads due to the extended amount of time they spend submerged in the water.

Unfortunately, it is also one of the most endangered species on Earth. The 40-centimeter-long water turtle can only be found on the Mary River in Queensland, Australia. The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has now ranked the animal 29th on a list of most vulnerable reptile species.

Significant Decline In Population

The Mary River turtle's punky look is unfortunately one of the reasons that doomed the species. The turtle became an extremely popular pet between the '60s and '70s. The turtles were already at risk of being endangered when they were formally described as a species in 1994.

Reptile biologist Rikki Gumbs, from ZSL, said that it takes between 25 and 30 years for these turtles to reach sexual maturity, which makes them vulnerable to population decline. The exotic pet trade and the late discovery of the animals' vulnerability have significantly reduced the number of the species.

"There has been a reduction in the population of breeding female Mary River Tortoises of around 95% between 1970 and 2000. Hundreds of females nested near Tiaro in the 1960s and 1970s, and only ten individuals nested on the same sand banks in 1998 and 1999," Australia's Department of the Environment said

Other Threats

The destruction of the natural habitat through the building of dams, soil erosion, and water and soil pollution and the collection of the eggs for the pet trade also contributed to the turtle's survival pressure.

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.

"Reptiles often receive the short end of the stick in conservation terms, compared with the likes of birds and mammals," Rikki Gumbs said "Just as with tigers, rhinos and elephants, it is vital we do our utmost to save these unique and too often overlooked animals. Many EDGE reptiles are the sole survivors of ancient lineages."

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