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Boris the Northern Snake-necked Turtle

Who can fail to be amazed at the sight of a group of this modern day Plesiosaurus swimming on a hunt across an aquarium? The Chelodina genus of turtles are a fascinating group of animals, all of which come from Australia and neighbouring New Guinea.

They are members of the Chelidae family, which are all side neck turtles. This means that, unlike the turtles and tortoises with which you may already be familiar, their necks cannot be retracted into the shell cavity. Instead they tuck their necks and head into the auxiliary area under the front of the shell in a sort of "s" shaped curve. Although not as effective as completely retreating into their shell, this action provides some degree of protection from predators.

Fossil evidence of this group of animals dates back to the Miocene period, approximately 20 million years ago. Other members of this group can be found today in South America providing evidence of continental drift. Northern snake-necked turtles occur along the coast in the south-western region of New Guinea and Irian Jaya along with the northern coast of Australia. Highly aquatic in nature, these turtles are found in slow moving rivers and swamps with lots of vegetation amongst which they enjoy hiding whilst waiting for prey to swim past. Carnivorous in diet, they actively hunt fish, crustaceans, and molluscs. In captivity Boris certainly spends much of the day foraging for pellets of the carnivorous fish food on which he is fed.

Boris has proved a hit with the pupils with large groups asking to see him at lunchtime and after school and offers a fascinating study of evolutionary traits.

Mr Conway. Science

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