Whitelipped mud turtle

Kinosternon leucostomum

SUBFAMILY

Kinosterninae

TAXONOMY

Cinosternum leucostomum Dumeril and Bibron, 1851, Rio Usumacinta, El Peten, Guatamela.

OTHER COMMON NAMES Spanish: Chachanya, pochitoque.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

This is a medium-sized kinosternid turtle (maximum shell length 8 in [20 cm]), with a smooth carapace (sometimes with a weak medial keel), a large plastron with two hinges capable of fully closing the carapacial opening, a raised eleventh marginal scute, the axillary and inguinal scutes on the bridge not in contact, and usually with a broad yellowish lateral head stripe extending from the orbit to the neck.

DISTRIBUTION

Ranges from central Veracruz, Mexico, southward in Atlantic drainages to Nicaragua, and then in both Atlantic and Pacific drainages southward to Colombia, Ecuador, and extreme northwestern Peru.

HABITAT

It inhabits nearly any freshwater aquatic habitat except fast-flowing rivers and streams. It prefers still waters, but also wanders extensively on land in some populations.

BEHAVIOR

This turtle may be active year-round and is primarily nocturnal. If water levels recede, it often leaves the water and esti-vates terrestrially under vegetation for up to 80 days.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

This mud turtle is omnivorous, eating mollusks, insects, worms, and carrion, but also seeds, fruits, leaves, and stems of plants. It is not known whether they feed out of the water.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Courtship and mating have not been described. Although nesting may occur in any month of the year, it appears to be concentrated in August to September and February to March in Mexico. Females produce multiple clutches during the year and lay their eggs (usually at night) in shallow nests or under leaf litter. The eggs are relatively large, elongate (1.3-1.5 X 0.6-0.7 in [34-37 X 16-19 mm]), and have brittle shells. The clutch size ranges from one to five, with larger clutches being produced by larger females. The eggs hatch after 90 to 265 days, and embryos exhibit diapause early in development or estivation late in development.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened. Very little is known about the status of this turtle in the field. However, because of its extensive distribution across huge tracts of undisturbed or minimally disturbed habitats, it is not currently in need of protection.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

This turtle is occasionally eaten by humans and can sometimes be seen for sale in food markets within its range. Small numbers are also exported to the pet trade. ♦

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