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'Butt Breather' Mary River Turtles and Other Odd Reptiles Could Go Extinct Soon Without Help

People logo People 4/12/2018 Kelli Bender
a turtle swimming under water © Chris Van Wyk

The Zoological Society of London has put together a new list of “weird and wonderful” reptiles, but unfortunately a place on this roster is bad news.

As part of their groundbreaking Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) of existence program, which is dedicated to highlighting and protecting some of the world’s most unusual creatures, ZSL created a EDGE Reptiles List to mark which reptiles are most at risk of going extinct, so scientists and conservations can channel their efforts to help the species that need it the most.

Among the critters to be placed on this list is the Mary River turtle, who placed at #29 and is known for staying “underwater for up to three days by breathing through its reproductive organs.” Also known as a “butt breather,” according to CNN, this reptile is native to the Mary River in Queensland, Australia.

Along with the odd ability to breathe through its private parts, Mary River turtles also stands out because of the bright green algae that grows on their heads, often forming humorous hairstyles, and for the two distinct spikes up their chins.

Rikki Gumbs, a reptile biologist at Zoological Society London (ZSL), told CNN that part of the reason Mary River turtles are in danger of going instinct is because they were popular as pets in the ’60s and ’70s, which diminished the species’ already small population.

According to The Guardian, the Mary River turtle was given its spot on the list based on a formula that takes into consideration the animals risk of extinction and “its evolutionary isolation.”

Other odd-looking reptiles on the list include the Chaco Side-Necked Turtle at #28, who does have a neck that appears to grow from the side of its shell and the Madagascar Blind Snake at #3, a tiny, skinny, pink snake that almost looks like a stretched out-earthworm.

At the top of the list is the Madagascar Big-Headed Turtle, which is also the most at risk terrestrial vertebrate, according to EDGE.


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