Phrynops zuliae

Pritchard and Trebbau, 1984
Zulia toad-headed turtle

The oblong, somewhat flattened carapace (to 28 cm) is broadest behind the center in males, but parallel sided in females. There is no medial keel, and females may have a medial longitudinal groove. The flared 1st vertebral is the largest and broader than long; the 5th, which is also flared and broader than long, is second largest; vertebrals 2-4 may be as long as or slightly longer than broad (the 3rd is the shortest and the 4th the narrowest). The cervical scute is long and narrow. The carapace is an unpatterned dark gray to black. The yellow plastron is well-developed, has an anal notch, and is rounded anteriorly. Its forelobe is broader than the hindlobe, and the bridge is relatively broad. Pritchard and Trebbau (1984) did not give the plastral formula, but that of the female illustrated (Plate 33G) is fem > intergul > abd > pect > hum > an = gul; that of the male (Plate 33H) is fem > intergul > hum > abd > gul > an > pect. The intergular completely separates the gulars. The head is large and very wide with a slightly projecting snout and a notched upper jaw. Two chin barbels are present. Dorsally, the head is covered with smooth skin divided into small irregularly shaped scales. It is distinctly bicolored (gray dorsally, cream to white ventrally) with a narrow black stripe extending from the snout through the orbit to over the tympanum. The neck is darker dorsally and lighter ventrally and has soft, wrinkled skin. Limbs are gray.
Males are smaller (to 21 cm), with narrower heads and long, thick tails.

Phrynops zuliae is confined to an area in the southwestern part of the Maracaibo basin in Venezuela (Pritchard and Trebbau, 1984).

Swamps, sometimes in forested areas, are inhabited.

Natural History
Pritchard and Trebbau (1984) reported a female laid seven (X = 35.3 x 30.2 mm) brittle-shelled eggs in September. They also reported a newly obtained individual excreted parts of a giant water bug, and that captives readily ate fish.

IUCN Red List Status (1996)
Vulnerable (B1+2c).