WORK IN CURRENT HERPETOLOGY:
Two New Alligator Snapping Turtle Species Announced, Some Face Localized Risks
by Brett Smith, Red Orbit
A new study published in the journal Zootaxa reveals that the alligator snapping turtle is actually three different species – not one as previously thought.The report also indicated that the localized distribution of these species, which includes coastal rivers of the northern Gulf of Mexico, poses a significant threat to their continued survival.
“We have to be especially careful with our management of the Suwannee River species because this turtle exists only in that river and its tributaries,” said study author Travis Thomas, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission scientist, referring to a small river that winds through parts of Georgia and Florida. “If something catastrophic were to occur, such as a chemical spill or something that affects the entire river, it could potentially devastate this species. The turtle is extremely limited by its habitat. All it has is this river and it has nowhere else to go.”
Based on analyses of the fossil record and modern turtle morphology, study researchers revised the genus Macrochelys to include Macrochelys temminkii and the two newly-described species, Macrochelys apalachicolae and Macrochelys suwanniensis. Constrained to river systems that empty into the northern Gulf of Mexico, the species are split by geography, which triggered changes in genetics, according to the study team…
(read more: Red Orbit)
photo: Gary M. Stolz/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service