The most distinctive characteristic of this turtle is its huge head (half as wide as the shell) which cannot be withdrawn into its shell. The top of the skull is completely roofed over in bone and covered with a large epidermal scale. The upper jaw has a strongly hooked beak. The carapace is very low and sometimes bears a single medial keel. The plastron is relatively large, but it is only narrowly connected to the carapace by ligaments. The tail is nearly as long as the shell and is covered by large epidermal scales. Well-developed musk glands are present in front of and behind the bridge.
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