Elseya lavarackorum
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Pleurodira
Family: Chelidae
Subfamily: Chelodininae
Genus: Elseya
Gray, 1867[1]
Type species
Chelymys dentata
Gray, 1867 (subsequent designation)[2]
  • Elseya
  • Pelocomastes
  • Hanwarachelys

Chelymys Gray, 1844
Euchelymys Gray, 1871
Pelocomastes De Vis, 1897[4][5]

Elseya is a genus of large side-necked turtles, commonly known as Australian snapping turtles, in the family Chelidae. Species in the genus Elseya are found in river systems in northern and northeastern Australia and throughout the river systems of New Guinea.[6] They are identified by the presence of alveolar ridges on the triturating surfaces of the mouth and the presence of a complex bridge strut.[7]

The Australian snapping turtles are largely herbivorous, with specialized mouth structures for eating fruits. However, they will eat animal products if opportunity arises. The various species can be found in large numbers where they are still abundant, e.g., Northern Territory of Australia. However, a number of the populations have become increasingly rare, and some are now listed as endangered.



John Edward Gray created the generic name, Elseya, in 1867 in honour of Dr. Joseph Ravenscroft Elsey. Elsey was a surgeon-naturalist on the Gregory Expedition[8] that traversed northern Australia from the Victoria River to Moreton Bay in 1855-56.


The genus was originally described by Gray in 1867 with the type species being set as Elseya dentata. The fossil genus Pelocomastes was later synonymised with this genus.[5] Following the recent revisions of this genus, the latisternum group has been moved to the new genus Myuchelys.[9] The remaining species of this genus have additionally been separated into three subgenera and the species redistributed among them.[10]

Elseya nadibajagu and Elseya uberima are prehistoric species known only from fossils. E. lavarackorum was initially believed also to be a fossil taxon, but later discovered to be still extant.[7]

Nota bene: A binomial authority in parentheses indicates that the species was originally described in a genus other than Elseya.


  1. Gray JE. 1867. Description of a new Australian tortoise (Elseya latisternum). Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (3) 20: 43-45.
  2. Lindholm WA. 1929. "Revidiertes verzeichnes der guttungen der rezenten schildkröten nebst notizen zur nomenklatur einiger arten". Zoologischer Anzwerp 81 (11/12): 275-295.
  3. Turtle Taxonomy Working Group [van Dijk PP, Iverson JB, Rhodin AGJ, Shaffer HB, Bour R]. 2014. "Turtles of the world, 7th edition: annotated checklist of taxonomy, synonymy, distribution with maps, and conservation status". In: Rhodin AGJ, Pritchard PCH, van Dijk PP, Saumure RA, Buhlmann KA, Iverson JB, Mittermeier RA. (Editors). Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. Chelonian Research Monographs 5 (7): 000.329–479, doi:10.3854/ crm.5.000.checklist.v7.2014.
  4. De Vis CW. 1897. The extinct freshwater turtles of Queensland. Annals of the Queensland Museum 3: 3-7.
  5. 1 2 Thomson SA. 2000. A Revision of the Fossil Chelid Turtles (Pleurodira) Described by C.W. De Vis, 1897. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 45 (2):593-598. Brisbane. ISSN 0079-8835. PDF fulltext
  6. 1 2 Thomson S, Georges A, Limpus C. 2006. A New Species of Freshwater Turtle in the Genus Elseya (Testudines: Chelidae) from Central Coastal Queensland, Australia. Chelon. Conserv. Biol. 5 (1): 74–86. PDF fulltext
  7. 1 2 3 Thomson S, White A, Georges A. 1997. Re-Evaluation of Emydura lavarackorum: Identification of a Living Fossil. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 42 (1): 327-336.
  8. Beolens B, Watkins M, Grayson M. 2011. The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. (Genus Elseya, p. 83).
  9. Thomson S, Georges A. 2009. Myuchelys gen. nov. — a new genus for Elseya latisternum and related forms of Australian freshwater turtle (Testudines: Pleurodira: Chelidae). Zootaxa 2053: 32–42.
  10. 1 2 Thomson, S., Amepou, Y., Anamiato, J. & Georges, A. 2015. A new species and subgenus of Elseya (Testudines: Pleurodira: Chelidae) from New Guinea. Zootaxa 4006(1):59-82. Preview (PDF)
  11. Gray JE. 1863. On the species of Chelymys from Australia, with the description of a new species. Annals and Magazine of Natural History 3 (12):98-99.
  12. Ouwens PA. 1914. List of Dutch East Indian Chelonians in the Buitenzong Zoological Museum. Contributions a la Faune des Indes Néelandaises 1: 29-32.
  13. 2015. A new species of freshwater turtle of the genus Elseya (Testudinata: Pleurodira: Chelidae) from the Northern Territory of Australia. Zootaxa 4061(1):18-28. PDF
  14. Cann J. 1997. Irwin's Turtle. Monitor 9 (1): 36-40.
  15. White AW, Archer M. 1994. Emydura lavarackorum, a new Pleistocene turtle (Pleurodira: Chelidae) from fluviatile deposits at Riversleigh, Northwestern Queensland. Records of the South Australian Museum 27 (2): 160-167.
  16. Thomson SA, Mackness BS. 1999. Fossil Turtles from the Early Pliocene Bluff Downs Local Fauna, with a description of a new species of Elseya. Trans. R. Soc. S. Australia 123 (3): 101-105.
  17. De Vis CW. 1897. The extinct freshwater turtles of Queensland. Annals of the Queensland Museum 3: 3-7.
  18. Meyer AB. 1874. "Platemys novaeguineae sp. nov. Dr W.H. Peters legte vor: Eine mitteilung von Hrn. Adolf Bernhard Meyer über die von ihm auf Neu-Guinea under den Inseln Jobi, Mysore und Mafoor im Jahre 1873 gesammelten Amphibien". Monatsber. Konig. Preuss. Akad. Wiss. Berlin 39: 128-140.
  19. Georges A, Thomson S. 2010. Diversity of Australasian freshwater turtles, with an annotated synonymy and keys to species. Zootaxa 2496: 1–37.
  20. Vogt, Theodor. 1911. "Reptilien und Amphibien aus Neu-Guinea". Sitzungsberichte der Gesellschaft der Naturforschender Freunde, Berlin 9: 410–414.

External links & Further Reading

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