Impurest's Guide to Animals #40 - Big Headed Turtle

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Edited By ImpurestCheese

Greetings from Slovenia (the place where this issue was written) as Impurest’s Guide to Animals hits the big 4-0. Last week the horrifically violent Humboldt Squid was in the spotlight. This week’s animal is (mercifully) very different; still don’t take it lightly, not if you value your fingers

__________________________________________________________________

Issue #40 Big Headed Turtle

[1]
[1]

Kingdom – Animalia

Phylum – Chordata

Class – Reptilla

Order – Testudines

Family – Platysernidae

Genus – Platysternon

Species – megachephalum

Related Species - Big Headed Turtles are the only member of the Family Platysernidae (1)

Range - Big Headed Turtles are found in a number of counties in South East Asia including China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand

A Big Head Indeed

Big Headed Turtles have a carapace length of around 20cm and live in shallow fast flowing streams bordered by thick forest. As the name suggests the species has an enlarged head, which is so big that the turtle can’t pull it into its shell. To compensate for this the species has a reinforced roof of bone on it’s skull to deter predators. Big Headed Turtles are poor swimmers and use there enlarged claws to grip rocks. In fact they are so accomplished at climbing, using their jaws and tail in conjunction with their claws, that it’s not uncommon to see an adult Big Headed Turtle sunning itself on a low tree branch (2).

[3]
[3]

Like most freshwater turtles the Big Head is primarily carnivorous, coming out at night to hunt for freshwater crustaceans and molluscs. While only a few species within the turtles range prey on it both Leopards (Panthera paradus) and Mugger Crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) are strong enough to try. When threatened the turtle uses it’s bony tail to shield its head and legs since they are too big to be fully withdrawn into its shell.

Sadly Big Headed Turtles are among the species readily exported for the Oriental Food Trade throughout much of its range. Coupled with a slow reproduction and growth rate there is a very slow turn-over in the population making individual removal from the environment particularly devastating.

Ecology 101 - A Guide to Environmental Mechanics

When pollution and its negative impact on the environment are mentioned the mind usually jumps to massive disasters such as oil slicks or local examples such as littering. As such Light Pollution is often overlooked, despite the horrific consequences it has on the biota of a number of species. The darkness of the night sky is ranked on the Bortle Scale with a true Dark Sky having a Naked Eye Limiting Magnitude (which measures the faintest level of stellar object visible) of 7.0 to 8.0. In contrast most urban areas have a Naked Eye Limiting Magnitude of only half that (3).

Sky Glow from Salt Lake City viewed from approximately 50 miles away [3]
Sky Glow from Salt Lake City viewed from approximately 50 miles away [3]

As such creatures those navigate using stellar cues or by lunar position such as Marine Turtles are easily confused and mislead by sky-glow. There are many instances of the light produced by a city at night drawing pregnant female turtles away from their nesting beaches and deep into the urban centre. Turtles aren't the only nocturnal navigators affected this way; fireflies, salamanders and bats all use the moon and stars to navigate, and are all affected this way.

[4]
[4]

For Salamanders, it’s theorized, that the effects can be even more disturbing, an increase in UV light (such as that created by light pollution) can cause deformities such as mutation in the eye and skin as well as the growth of additional limbs (4). The effect on birds however, is not theorized but proven fact. In the United States alone over four million birds are killed by being drawn astray by light pollution. Those birds that migrate at night are particularly vulnerable often being drawn into city centres and then becoming too exhausted or stressed to escape (5).

Bibliography

1 - www.arkive.org

2 -. http://www.turtlerescues.com/platysternidae.htm

3 - O'Hanlon, Larry (1 May 2013). "Turn Yourself into a Skyglow Meter". Discovery News

4 - Blaustin A.R, Johnson P.T, (2003) The Complexity of Deformed Amphibians, Front Ecol Environ

5 - http://physics.fau.edu/observatory/lightpol-Birds.html

Picture References

1 - http://cdn2.arkive.org/media/BB/BB05DC6F-563F-42E1-8097-390A4A212ED4/Presentation.Large/Big-headed-turtle-.jpg

2 - http://www.cydoniamall.com/pets//pictures/PmegacephalumTR2.jpg

3 - http://www.utah3d.net/og/salt-flats-night-og.jpg

4 - https://news.uns.purdue.edu/images/+2008/williams-salamander.jpg

And in a flash (that lasts the entire night) the Big Headed Turtle crawls off to sleep the day away. Next weeks animal is a bone cracking foe that would gladly take on the turtle if it was to find one. Until then critic, comment and check out Past Issues in the Bestiary of er Past Issues

Many Thanks

Impurest Cheese

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Knightsofdarkness2

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Great article. That turtle has such a huge head.

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cattlebattle

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I used to open for a jam band named "Big Headed Turtle". I had always thought the guys just named their band that because they were silly bitches, turns out, its a real thing....

and now I know......

Loading Video...

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@cattlebattle: Ha ha, yep even stupid things link back to the Natural World at time

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Straight-Fire

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Whoa! Never heard of a turtle that can climb trees.

Anyway, Nice work, Impurest. Best Guide to Animals I've read. ^_^

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Very nice stuff Impurest :)

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@impurestcheese: Always enjoy learning something new. That's one of the reasons why you're one of my fave users.

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#12  Edited By Cream_God

Awwww poor turtle

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@cgoodness: ??? Really, what do you know about it's fate that I don't

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#14  Edited By Cream_God

@cgoodness: ??? Really, what do you know about it's fate that I don't

I meant that it cant put its head in its shell :/

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#15  Edited By Cream_God

@cgoodness: ??? Really, what do you know about it's fate that I don't

I meant that it cant put its head in its shell :/

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ImpurestCheese

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@cgoodness: Ah okay, but since it's head is so tough it doesn't need to anymore

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Cream_God

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@impurestcheese: Like tough enough to not be harmed by another turtle or bird predators?

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@cgoodness: It's proof against most bird predators, but not against next weeks animal

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#19  Edited By cbishop
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#20  Edited By ImpurestCheese

@cbishop: Like a Turtle comments (Thanks for yours) are slowly wadding in

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#21  Edited By ImpurestCheese
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laflux

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Bump and a Second Call Out

@laflux,

Where are you guys? Does everyone suddenly dislike this now?

D'awww :)

I've been a bit busy with my project and some 3rd year presentation. In anycase, I do read all of them, but when I don't comment, its usually don't have anything interesting to add :P

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#23  Edited By ImpurestCheese

@laflux: Okay that's fine, it's just I gave up half a day of my holiday to write this. Usually theres a faster response as well, not sure what's going on

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@impurestcheese: Whoa! Cool turtle. O__O Never seen one with a tail that long...I used to have a pet turtle. I like how mellow they usually are. :)

Kinda sad this turtle can't go all the way in his shell though. :(

And apologies for late reply! Didn't check notifications until now. :)

You're on holiday right now? =O I hope you enjoy your break!

It's almost Thanksgiving where I live.

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@samimista: Cool thanks for the comment and no not on holiday anymore (back in the UK now dealing with some almighty badness ATM) Never had a terrapin or tortoise as a bet but as mentioned earlier in the series I do have a Day Gecko called Emerald (she's shedding at the moment so is extra grumpy)

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#27  Edited By Ostyo

@impurestcheese: I just got the notification. Cool your jets, Miss Impatient. :P

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@ostyo: Don't test me, I'm grouchy as hell today

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#29  Edited By Ostyo

@impurestcheese: Red, chill pill. So is this big headed guy related to the snapping turtles? The body shape and anatomy reminds me of one.

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@impurestcheese: I'm sorry. I'm very on and off when it comes to CV. I really dug the Ecology 101 though. Highlight of the blog for me.

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@ostyo: Nope not related to the Snappers at all although there is a few similarities, And feeling more chilled now that I've had a run, been cooped up in an office for two days dealing with someone elses mess

@darthaznable: Cool Thanks, dug it up from a paper I wrote for Uni a while back

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Omen_Yokai

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I don't think I've ever seen a turtle with that long of a tail, wow.

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@impurestcheese: Interesting. I wonder what he would look like as an mutant ninja turtle. I bet he could use that tail to great effect in battle.

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@ostyo: Yep they already use it as a lever to help them climb

@omen_yokai: Nature is full of surprises. Thanks for the Comment, do you want to be included in future callouts by any chance?

@squares: Sorry it's been one of those weeks already, still have three days and a potential compulsory demotion to come, one the pretty much sends my career back two years

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@impurestcheese: Well, I love turtles so this was a real treat, thanks for that. I hope your week gets better.

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wopwop, i llike dis tutrtle hngg

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#40  Edited By Noone301994
No Caption Provided

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ImpurestCheese

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@noone301994: ??? Not sure what's going on there

@nighthunder: Uh okay, that spelling is abysmal by the way

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It put it's head inside of its she'll, so what does it do for defense?

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@johnjo719: It can't, it basically uses it's tail to shield it's legs when under attack and if that fails stands and opens it's mouth, tries to make itself look big and threatening. If that fails it takes the fight to the predator and bites back. Those jaws can crack a mussel or a crayfish in two so they definitely are deadly defensive weapons as well

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@wildvine: Yeah I was in a very bad mood when I posted that. To be honest still in a bad mood because of work

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#48  Edited By johnjo719

@impurestcheese: oh sounds tougher than I thought! I'd hate to be bitten by that thing though

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@johnjo719: Nature is always a lot tougher then anyone imagines

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@impurestcheese: Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! I love youuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!

I've been stuck in a cliche of Canadianness, although on the States' side of things. Managed to get home today and saw this and I love this too much to not cling to you in hopes you will continue. Not saying you said you wouldn't, and not saying I didn't read how you've been ridden roughshod at work lately, but I still wanted to cling to you, because you are clingable and stuff.

So help me if you get mandatorily demoted because of another person's mess. So help me. I'll gather up a few of the nastiest critters you've written up (maybe even an evil dolphin or two) and sic them onto whomever you deem deserving of it.

Oh, and wow on there being a turtle whose head is too big to fit back in its shell. I feel mean, but I found it a little funny.