Gulf Snapping Turtle
E lavarackorum 2
Physical description
Binomial nameElseya lavarackorum
Average Size45 cm
Average weight3.0 kgs
Conservational Status
IUCN statusIUCN 3.1
Scientific classification
SpeciesE. lavarackorum
Distribution of speciesQueensland, Australia

The Gulf snapping turtle (Elseya lavarackorum) is a species of freshwater turtle in the Chelidae family. It is endemic to Australia.


The species was first described in 1994, as Emydura lavarackorum, from fossil material from Riversleigh in North West Queensland.[1] It was later referred to living, though undescribed, turtles in the genus Elseya in a paper in which the authors commented “It is Australia’s first living fossil freshwater turtle, an extant population of a Pleistocene taxon”.[2]


The turtle is a large, brown to dark brown, short-necked turtle. Its carapace, or upper shell, reaches 35cm| in length; it has an undulating suture between the hemeral and pectoral shields in the white plastron, or under shell. The undulating (rather than straight) suture in the plastron distinguishes it from the northern snapping turtle (Elseya dentata).[2]

Distribution and habitatEdit

The turtle is restricted to rivers draining into the Gulf of Carpentaria in the Northern Territory and Queensland, from the Nicholson to Calvert River systems in the Northern Territory, to the Gregory River in Queensland.[3]


The turtles are mainly herbivorous, eating fruits, flowers, leaves, bark and Pandanus roots, with the juveniles also eating insect larvae. Figs may be an important food. They are readily trapped using meat as bait. Their eggs are laid in soil near the edge of the water.[3]

Status and conservationEdit

The turtle is listed as Endangered under the Commonwealth Endangered Species Protection Act 1992, as Vulnerable under Queensland’s Nature Conservation Act 1992, and as of Least Concern under the Northern Territory’s Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 2000.

The main threats to the turtle include disturbance to nesting sites by feral animals such as pigs, habitat destruction by grazing and watering cattle, and potentially through changes to hydrology, disturbance, and climate change. They are sometimes caught in fishing nets.[3]


  1. White, A.; & Archer, M. (1994) Emydura lavarackorum, a new Pleistocene turtle (Pleurodira: Chelidae) from fluviatile deposits at Riversleigh, Northwestern Queensland. Records of the South Australian Museum 27:159–167
  2. 2.0 2.1 Thomson, S.A.; White, A.; & Georges, A. (1997) Re-evaluation of Emydura lavarackorum: identification of a living fossil. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 42.327–336 pdf
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 John Woinarski 2006 Threatened Species of the Northern Territory: Gulf Snapping Turtle. Department of Natural Resources, Environment and the Arts, Northern Territory
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