Temporal range: Early Paleocene to present
Yellow-spotted river turtle (Podocnemis unifilis)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Pleurodira
Family: Podocnemididae
Cope, 1868
Extant genera

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Podocnemididae is a family of pleurodire turtles native to Madagascar and northern South America. Podocnemidid turtles are commonly called "side-necked turtles" in direct reference to their inability to retract their heads backwards, but hide them sideways. These turtles are all aquatic, inhabiting streams and other flowing water. Their shells are streamlined to aid in swimming.

Taxonomy and systematics

Podocnemididae has been merged into the closely related family Pelomedusidae as the subfamily Podocnemidinae. Some authors still maintain this classification,[1] but here it is preferred to keep them distinct families in the superfamily Pelomedusoidea instead.

The family Podocnemididae contains only three living genera, two of them monotypic:

The family also contains several prehistoric genera, including Albertwoodemys, Bairdemys, Bauruemys, Brontochelys, Caninemys, Cordichelys, Dacquemys, Lapparentemys, Latentemys, Lemurchelys, Mogharemys, Neochelys, Papoulemys, Peiropemys, Pricemys, Shweboemys, Stereogenys, Turkanemys, Cambaremys, Carbonemys, Cerrejonemys, Kenyemys, Roxochelys and Stupendemys.[2] Stupendemys lived around 5.5 million years ago in northern South America, and was the largest freshwater turtle and the largest pleurodire known to date.


  1. Fritz Jürgen Obst (1998). "Pelomedusinae". In H. G. Cogger; R. G. Zweifel. Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. San Diego: Academic Press. pp. 112–113. ISBN 0-12-178560-2.
  2. Eugene S. Gaffney, Peter A. Meylan, Roger C. Wood, Elwyn Simons & Diogenes De Almeida Campos (2011). "Evolution of the Side-Necked Turtles: The Family Podocnemididae". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. 350: 1–237. doi:10.1206/350.1.

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