Giant South American River Turtle: Podocnemis Expansa
Distribution and Habitat
Giant South American River Turtles are found in the Amazon River drainage of South America, as far south as northern Brazil, northern Peru and the Islands of Trinidad and Tobago.
Giant South American River Turtles inhabit freshwater rivers with sandy banks or sandbars, which are crucial for nesting.
Giant South American River Turtles are the largest river turtle in South America, with great sexual dimorphism by size. They have a broad, domed and streamlined carapace for active swimming in moderate river currents. Adults can reach 42 inches in length and weigh up to 198 pounds. Their color may be influenced by the algae that is attached to their shell, ranging from olive green to brown. They have a long neck which can be withdrawn horizontally within the shell. This leaves it partially exposed, rather than retracting it in a vertical “S” bend as in most other turtle species. Their head is broad with a protruding snout and an upper jaw which is neither notched nor rounded, but squared off.
Mutual cleaning behavior between these turtles is practiced. They will pull the algae off of each other’s shells with their beaks.
The sex of the turtle is dependent of the temperature of their nest. There is one male for every 30 females among the newborn. The colder the temperature, the more males will be hatched.
Beaches in South America are protected by the National Guard for the safety of giant South American river turtle eggs and babies.