Amid the unprecedented outbreak of deadly coronavirus, researchers at German university shared the “good news” of discovering a new species of tortoise that is fringed. Until now, it was presumed that there was only a single species of genus Chelus, but Senckenberg scientist Uwe Fritz and his team discovered the turtle with an “unusual appearance”. The fringed turtle is apparently found hidden in the mud and are 53 centimetres in height and look like stones covered with aquatic photosynthetic organisms or algae. However, if encountered by prey, the turtles suck the predator with its large mouth.
"Although these turtles are widely known for their bizarre appearance and unusual eating behavior, surprisingly little is known about their variability and genetics," explains Fritz in official report.
He continues, "Until now, it was assumed that there was only one type of armoured vehicle that was widespread in South America."
Using genetic combinations, the scientists have now explained that there are two different species of turtles that possess a fringed turtle. The new species is named Chelus orinocensis and is commonly found in Orinoco and Rio Negro basins, while the previously known species is called Chelus fimbriata and is exclusively found living in the Amazon basin. According to the researchers, the separation between both the species had taken place at least 13 million years ago when Amazon Orinoco basin diverged into two rivers as known now. A significant number of aquatic animal species were separated in their habitat and thus, they further developed differently but the newfound species is not yet considered endangered.
"So far, the species has not been considered endangered due to its distribution. Our results show that the stocks are smaller than previously assumed due to the splitting into two type."
"In addition, thousands of these quirky-looking turtles are seized every year by the authorities who illegally entered the animal trade. We have to protect these fascinating animals before it is too late,” concludes first author of the study, Professor Mario Vargas-Ramírez.