We often hear negative news when it comes to the environment, but it seems as if we have something to be happy about this time. A new turtle species was discovered and the turtles look just like muddy rocks!
The fringed turtle, known as a matamata, was discovered by scientists. They say that the interesting appearance of the turtle serves an important purpose.
The Matama can grow up to about 20 inches tall and they look just like algae-covered stones. Researchers found that when they are approached by prey, they open their large mouths and swallow the prey whole.
Professor Dr. Uwe Fritz, from the Senckenberg Natural History Collections in Dresden, said: “Although these turtles are widely known for their bizarre appearance and unusual eating behavior, surprisingly little is known about their variability and genetics.”
“Until now, it was assumed that there was only one type of armored vehicle that was widespread in South America,” he continued.
The matamata may come in different forms.
Prof Fritz further stated: “Various studies have indicated that the matamatas can differ greatly in appearance. We took this as an opportunity and genetically examined the fringed turtles.”
DNA samples were collected from 75 different animals and it showed that there were two different species of the fringed turtle in existence. One of them was found in the Orinoco and Rio Negro basins. The species that they discovered, the “Chelus fimbriata” calls the Amazon basin the home.
It seems that some 13 million years ago, the two species of turtle were separated from each other and they developed in a genetically separate area.
According to the first author of the study, the new species discovery means that the fringed turtle may move right into the endangered category.
Professor Mario Vargas-Ramírez took the lead in the study. She used to work at the Senckenberg in Dresden but now she works at the Colombian National University in Bogotá.
“So far, the species has not been considered threatened due to its distribution. Our results show that the stocks are smaller than previously assumed due to the splitting into two types.
In addition, thousands of these quirky-looking turtles are seized every year by the authorities who illegally entered the animal trade. We have to protect these fascinating animals before it is too late.”
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