Elseya latisternum

Gray, 1867
Serrated snapping turtle

The broad, depressed, oval adult carapace (to 28 cm) is broadest behind the center, has a vertebral groove, and is distinctly serrated along the posterior rim. Juveniles have keeled carapaces. Neural bones are absent. A cervical scute may be present or absent. Vertebrals are broader than long; the 5th is posteriorly flared. All carapacial scutes are slightly rugose. The carapace varies from olive or chestnut brown with dark mottlings to dark brown or black. The plastron is long and narrow, exposing much of the carapacial opening. Its forelobe is broader than the hindlobe and is rounded anteriorly. The hindlobe tapers toward the rear and has a posterior notch. The intergular is usually 1.5 to more than 2.0 times longer than broad, and it completely separates the gulars. The plastral formula is: an > pect > fem > intergul > abd > gul > hum. The plastron is cream to yellow with brown pigment on the lateral edges of the scutes. The head is large with a projecting snout and an unnotched to slightly notched upper jaw. No medial ridge is present on the triturating surface of the upper jaw. The top of the head is covered with a large horny plate instead of smooth skin; unlike other Elseya species, the sides of this plate turn downward toward the tympanum. Two chin barbels are present, and there are long pointed tubercles on the back of the neck. The head varies from chestnut brown to olive gray or dark brown; the legs and neck are similarly colored. The jaws are yellow to tan.
The diploid chromosome count totals 50 (Bull and Legler, 1980).
Males have much longer tails than do females.

Elseya latisternum ranges in northeastern Australia from the Cape York Peninsula southward to northern New South Wales.

Geographic Variation
Although no subspecies have been described, variation does exist. Goode (1967) reported that Elseya latisternum from different locations may be unlike in coloration: those from Cape York have chestnut-brown carapaces, but individuals from the Flinders River are mottled dark and pale sepia. Legler and Cann (1980) found that the condition of the cervical scute varies geographically: it is usually absent in northern populations (Cape York, 93% absence) but usually present and well-developed in populations south of 29°S (98% presence).
In New South Wales, three undescribed Elseya cf. latisternum are found; see Genus Elseya for more information.

This side-neck lives in rivers, streams, lagoons, and marshes. Legler and Cann (1980) did not find it in large rivers such as the Fitzroy and Dawson, at 23°S, but it was common in smaller tributary streams.

Natural History
Courtship involves the male approaching the female with a series of dorsoventral head bobs, touching her cloacal area with his snout, then moving to the front of the female and attempting to align their gular barbels. This is followed by extended stroking of the female's barbels and snout with his forefeet and claws (Murphy and Lamoreaux, 1978).
Nesting occurs from September to December (Legler, 1985). Probably several clutches of 9 to 17 eggs are laid each year (Cann, 1978). Eggs have brittle shells and are elongated (25.4-40.8 x 18.2-29.8 mm; Legler, 1985).
Legler and Cann (1980) reported Elseya latisternum as chiefly carnivorous, with insectivorous tendencies, but no mollusk-eating tendencies. They also reported that vegetation was not present in the stomachs they examined; however, Cann (1978) reported that E. latisternum in one small waterhole ate weeds, and Worrell (1964) also reported plants are eaten. Animal foods taken include aquatic insects, crayfish, and frogs.
Large E. latisternum can bite viciously when provoked and care should be taken when handling wild individuals. Also, they have a tendency to emit a foul-smelling odor from their musk glands.

IUCN Red List Status (1996)
Not listed.