New Species of Freshwater Turtle Discovered in Papua New Guinea

February 23, 2016

Papua New Guinea has kicked out a new species of freshwater turtle closely related to Elseya novaeguineae, Elseya schultzei, both of which are found in PNG, according to NT News. Elseya rhodini, the Southern New Guinea Stream Turtle, evolved with Elseya novaeguineae, Elseya schultzei from a single common ancestor 17 to 19 million years ago, according to Prof. Arthur Georges, a University of Canberra scientist and lead author of the paper that describes the new chelonian. 

“These ages are quite remarkable and came as a surprise, because it means these turtles have together seen the full geological development of the island of New Guinea, Georges told NT News. “The other species of freshwater turtle appear to have arrived after New Guinea had formed much as we see it today.”

The turtle, which inhabits small streams, is from the Chelidae family of side-necked turtles that are known to exist in South America, Australia, PNG, and Timor and Rote in Indonesia. Georges looked at genetic and other data to determine that Elseya rhodini is distinct from the other turtles and is noted for its red coloration. 

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