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Differentiating Male and Female Elseya Species   - Darrell Senneke and Scott Thomson


Copyright © 2003 World Chelonian Trust. All rights reserved



Unlike some species of turtles and tortoises it is fairly easy to distinguish the  sex of adult Elseya. The following is a straight forward pictorial guide to help identify which sex animal you may have.  It should be noted that the sexual morphometric differences do not manifest until the animals start to mature.  There is no tried and true method of determining the sex of hatchlings.   



Please also see the related resources on this species at:

Elseya Gallery


The sex of this Genus is not immediately apparent from viewing the carapace as in the photo below of  very large male of about 16 inches (40 cm)  straight carapace length (SCL).


It is  misconception that color variation is in any way tied to the sex of this species. There is a fairly wide natural variation in the color of both sexes  as can be seen in the two photos below of sub-adult Elseya. In this case the female on the right more closely resembles the coloration of the large male above then it does a much darker  male pictured on the left.


Elseya Male Elseya Female


There are two ways to sex this Genus, both of which involve the tail. These methods will not have application for very young specimens.  As  they mature the differences become apparent.  Their habit of defensively carrying the tail to the side requires that a plastron view be obtained by  turning the turtle over   


Looking at the pictures below of sub-adult Elseya,  the animal on the left has a longer tail which is wider at its base.  The female on the right has a smaller  tail in terms of both length as well as width. 

Elseya Male

Elseya Female


The second method involves the cloacal opening.  The cloacal opening of the male turtle on the left  is lower on the tail, past the end of the carapace. The cloacal opening of the female Elseya on the right is much closer to the base of the tail. 


Elseya Male

Elseya Female


Taxonomic note: 


Goode (1967) synonymized  E. branderhorsti, E. novaeguineae and E. schultzei into one species.


Thomson et al., (1997) resurrected E. branderhorsti and Georges and Thomson (2003,  in press) resurrects E. schultzei.

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