Green-Haired, Genital-Breathing Turtle Added to Endangered Reptiles List


But the Mary River Turtle might just be the strangest of them all.

The creature is a Mary River turtle - a weird species that can stay underwater for up to three days by breathing through its genitals.

Boasting a green, punk hairdo and the unusual ability to breathe through its backside, an Australian turtle has become famous overnight-but not only for its eccentricity. That ability also usually provides these turtles with a vibrant green mohawk, the result of algae growing on their heads because of the extended time spent submerged.

The 40cm long turtle, which is only found on the Mary river in Queensland, features in a new list of the most vulnerable reptile species compiled by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). The Zoological Society of London (ZSL) has now ranked the animal 29th on a list of most vulnerable reptile species.

This biological function allows the turtle - referred to as a "butt breather" - to stay underwater for up to three days. Remarkably, this turtle was kept as a pet in Australia for more than 20 years before its formal description as a new species.

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The Mary River turtle's punky look is unfortunately one of the reasons that doomed the species.

Academic research was hampered in 1974 when traders refused to reveal the habitat of what were then known as "Penny Turtles" after Australia outlawed the practice of keeping them as pets.

Other species on the list include the leatherback, ranked No. 85, and the Madagascan big-headed turtle, which ranked No. 1. Certain species of fish were threatening the juvenile turtles, so the researchers gave up on them to protect the "punk turtles". "If we lose these species there will be nothing like them left on Earth".

"As their vulnerability was discovered late, we lost a whole generation due to the pet trade and now their population has become very small", he said.

Rikki Gumbs, who co-ordinates the list, said: "Reptiles often receive the short end of the stick in conservation terms, compared with the likes of birds and mammals. Many EDGE reptiles are the sole survivors of ancient lineages".