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Differentiating Male and Female Carettochelys insculpta (Fly River Turtle) - Chris Tabaka DVM

Copyright © 2004 World Chelonian Trust. All rights reserved


Related articles:

Carettochelys Gallery

Water Quality- Scott Thomson  (Very important for Carettochelys)

Understanding Biological Filtration - Jody Karlin 

Water Quality and Maintenance for Fly River Turtles - Scott Thomson and Jan Matiaska (


This freshwater "sea turtle"-like chelonian  can commonly be found in the animal markets of Southeast Asia for a few US dollars apiece.  A number can also be found in private and zoological collections in the United States.  Though found in fair numbers, recorded captive reproduction is minimal at best and it is thought that ova are collected by the thousands out of New Guinea to supply the pet trade.  Ongoing research is attempting to determine the sustainability of this practice.


The following series of pictures are to help show the sexual dimorphism present in the species.  The animals pictured here are approximately 10 cm SCL (straight carapace length).    While this is only roughly one third of adult size for recorded species in captivity1and one quarter the size of adults recorded in the wild 2, sexually dimorphic differences are already quite noticeable between individuals. 


Note the tail of the male on the left.  The tail base is enlarged and this swelling extends straight out into the cloaca.  In the female on the right, the tail swelling tapers off from the base of the tail to the tip of the tail quite rapidly. 

Also note the cloacal opening.  This tends to be the most accurate sexing guide for Asian chelonians in my experience.  The cloaca in the male on the left opens past the rear marginals allowing for easier copulations whereas the cloaca opens cranial to or just "inside" the outer edge of the rear marginals in the female.

Ventral Perspective

Male Carettochelys insculpta on left, female Carettochelys insculpta on right




2Arthur Georges, S. Doody, J. Young, J. Cann "The Australian Pig-Nosed Turtle" 2000.  - World Chelonian Trust     

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