Rafetus swinhoei

(Gray, 1873d)
Shanghai softshell turtle

This species may grow to at least 60 cm (Niekisch et al., 1997, based on a female skeleton in the Berlin Museum), but possibly reaches 80 cm (measurements in Heude, 1880). Its oblong carapace is olive green with numerous yellow spots and many small yellow dots between them (sometimes encircling the larger spots, or forming narrow stripes). These marks are particularly prominent along the anterior parts of the sides. A single neural separates the 1st pair of costals. The 8th pair of costals is reduced and does not meet at the midline. Carapacial bones are coarsely pitted. The plastron is gray with only two poorly developed callosities on the hyo- and hypoplastra. The epiplastra are separated and the entoplastron forms right angles to the plastral midline. The skull is moderate in size with a short bony snout. The mandibular symphysis is narrower than the greatest diameter of the orbit and lacks a median ridge. The jugal touches the squamosal, and the basisphenoid contacts the palatines. The head, neck, and dorsal surface of the limbs are black to olive, but yellow ventrally. Numerous large yellow spots occur on the head, neck and chin.
Males have long, thick tails with the vent near the tip.

The species has been recorded in China, from southeastern Yunnan, northern Jhejiang, southern Jiangsu and Shanghai (Zhao and Adler, 1993), and from Vietnam (Farkas, 1992; Niekisch et al., 1997). Fossil records are from northern Vietnam and Taiwan.

Habitat and Natural History
The habitat of R. swinhoei has not been recorded, and known life history data is sparse. The remains of the female in the Berlin Museum included 130 eggs with a diameter over 20 mm (Niekisch et al., 1997).
Heude (1880) reported that mollusks, insects, crustaceans, and the seeds of marsh plants are eaten.

Rafetus swinhoei was resurrected by Meylan and Webb (1988); fossil and subfossil species now assigned to it include Trionyx liupani Tao, 1986 and Pelochelys taihuensis Zhang, 1984 (Farkas, 1992; Zhao and Adler, 1993).

IUCN Red List Status (1996)
Not listed.