TracajŠ Turtle, Sideneck Turtle, Yellow Spotted River Turtle, Amazon River Turtle, Taricaya
Scientific Name: Podocnemis unifilis
An immensely large turtle, the Yellow-Spotted Amazon River Turtle averages between 14 and 27 inches in carapace length. The olive green, brown, or gray carapace is a very high carapace with a raised ridge, known as a keel, in the middle. The plastron, or underside of the shell, is usually yellow and may have dark blotches. The Amazon River Turtle's head is quite long with an obvious snout. The head is marked with yellow spots on the gray, olive, or brown skin. Most Yellow-Spotted Amazon River Turtles have a barb on the chin and some specimens have two such barbs. Female Amazon River Turtles are much larger than males. The shell of both males and females has a groove next to the front leg, between the two halves of the shell, into which the turtle places its head when threatened.
Yellow-Spotted Amazon River Turtles have a mating season that lasts several months. The mating season depends on the region in which the turtle lives. When courting, the male turtle nips at the female's feet, swims around her and curls his tail around her shell. He then injects semen from his cloaca into hers. Several weeks after copulation, the female Amazon River Turtle lays a clutch of between 15 and 25 eggs in a nest. The babies hatch after about two months of incubation into hatchlings about the size of a quarter. The hatchling turtles have very vibrant yellow markings and are preyed upon by many types of animals. The sex of the babies depends on the temperature of incubation; if incubated at temperatures below 90 degrees Fahrenheit, males will result, if above 92 degrees, the progeny will be female.
Generally found in the lagoons and backwaters of South America
The Yellow-Spotted Amazon River Turtle is sometimes known as the Sideneck Turtle, Yellow-Spotted River Turtle, Amazon River Turtle, or Tracaja Turtle. They are found in the Amazon rainforest and are quite large. They are rarely kept in captivity because they are highly threatened in the wild.
The Yellow-Spotted Amazon River Turtle is generally found in the lagoons and backwaters of South America. During the mating season, they will move to rivers and streams. They are aquatic animals, meaning they very rarely venture onto land, and they usually feed on aquatic vegetation. The Yellow-Spotted Amazon River Turtle enjoys spending time basking in the sun. If their basking spot is threatened by other turtles, they will bite and nip, though usually the confrontation is not serious. Yellow-Spotted Turtles are highly vulnerable to predators because they are side-necked turtles. This means that, instead of pulling their head and neck into the shell as other turtles do, they tuck the head and neck sideways under the edge of their shell.
While once quite common, the Yellow-Spotted Amazon River Turtle is rapidly decreasing in numbers in the wild. They are found in swamps and tributaries along the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers in South America, including Venezuela, northern Brazil, and Surinam. Although the huge sizes of their native habitats are capable of supporting large numbers of turtles, they are regularly hunted not only for food, but also for their shells, their eggs, and oil. They are also dying out because the water levels of their homes are rising because of river navigation and hydroelectric dams. The Yellow Spotted Amazon River Turtle is sometimes called the Taricaya. This name is related to the kechwa verb "tariy", meaning "to find". Perhaps this name was chosen because these turtles were very abundandt in the past.
The Yellow-Spotted River Turtle feeds primarily on fruits and vegetables, although they are omnivorous in captivity.