An Introduction to the Chelodina

by Scott Thomson.

    Chelodina, collectively known as snake-necked turtles, is a large and diverse genus of long-necked Chelid turtles with a complicated nomenclatural history. Although in the past Macrochelodina and Macrodiremys have been considered separate genera and prior to that all the same, they are now considered subgenera of the Chelodina. Chelodina is an ancient group of Chelid turtles native to Australia, New Guinea and the Indonesian Rote Island. The turtles within this subgenus are small to medium sized, with oval shaped carapace. They are side-necked turtles, meaning they tuck their head partially around the side of their body when threatened instead of directly backwards. Macrochelodina represents those species that have often been termed the Chelodina B group, or thick necked snake neck turtles. The subgenus was described in 1985 by Wells & Wellington (as a new genus) but was not recognized until recently when it was shown that the name was valid. As such they are a side-neck turtle of the family Chelidae with extremely long necks and long flattened heads. They are specialist fish eaters using a strike and gape mode of feeding. They are medium to large species with the largest Chelodina (M.) expansa reaching shell lengths of some 45 cm (18 in).[3] The first fossils (C. (M.) alanrixi) are known from Queensland from the Eocene period (Lapparent de Broin, F. de, & Molnar, R. E., 2001). Macrodiremys is a monotypic genus recently split off from the rest of the Chelodina. Its sole member is the enigmatic Chelodina (Macrodiremys) colliei from Western Australia.


    Taxonomy ... see taxonomy page

  Current taxonomy follows that of Georges & Thomson, 2010

  Subgenus: Chelodina Fitzinger, 1826
    Chelodina (C.) canni McCord & Thomson, 2002
    Chelodina (C.) longicollis (Shaw, 1794)
    Chelodina (C.) mccordi Rhodin, 1994
    Chelodina (C.) novaeguineae Boulenger, 1888
    Chelodina (C.) reimanni Philippen and Grossmann, 1990
    Chelodina (C.) pritchardi Rhodin, 1994
    Chelodina (C.) steindachneri Siebenrock, 1914

  Subgenus: Macrochelodina Wells & Wellington, 1985
    †Chelodina (M.) alanrixi de Broin and Molnar, 2001
    †Chelodina (M.) insculpta de Vis, 1897
    Chelodina (M.) burrungandjii Thomson, Kennett & Georges, 2000
    Chelodina (M.) expansa Gray, 1857
    Chelodina (M.) parkeri Rhodin and Mittermeier, 1976
    Chelodina (M.) oblonga Gray, 1841

  Subgenus: Macrodiremys McCord & Joseph-Uoni 2007
    Chelodina (M.) colliei Gray, 1856


Map created by Scott Thomson




     Boulenger, G.A. 1888. On the chelydoid chelonians of New Guinea. Annals Museo Civico di Storia Naturale de Genova. (2)6:449-452
     Gray, John Edward. 1841. A catalogue of the species of reptiles and amphibia hitherto described as inhabiting Australia, with a description of some new species from Western Australia, and some remarks on their geographical distribution. In: Grey, G. Journals of Two Expeditions of Discovery in Northwest and Western Australia. London: T. and W. Boone, Vol. 2. Appendix E, pp. 422–449.
     Gray, John Edward. 1856a. On some new species of freshwater tortoises from North America, Ceylon and Australia, in the collection of the British Museum. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1855[1856](23):197–202.
     McCord W. and Thomson S. (2002). A new species of Chelodina (Testudines: Pleurodira: Chelidae) from Northern Australia. Journal of Herpetology 36(2):255-267
     Phillipen, H.D. and Grossman, M. (1990) Eine neue Schlangenhalsschildkrote von Neueguinea: Chelodina reimanni sp. n. (Reptilia, Testudines, Pleuordira: Chelidae). Zoologische Abhandlungen, Staatliches Museum fur Tierkunde, Dresden, 46:95-102.
     Rhodin, A.G.J. (1994a) Chelid Turtles of the Australian Archipelago II: A new species of Chelodina from Roti Island, Indonesia. Breviora 498:1-38.
     Rhodin, A.G.J. (1994b) Chelid Turtles of the Australian Archipelago I: A new species of Chelodina from southeastern Papua New Guinea. Breviora 497:1-36.
     Siebenrock, F. 1914. Eine neue Chelodina art aus Westaustralien. Anz. Akad. Wiss. Wien Math.-natur. Kl.(1)17:386-387.
     Shaw, G. 1794. Zoology of New Holland. Vol 1. Davis, London. 33pp.