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Tortoises of Australia

Telling the Difference Between Species
Australian tortoises are divided into three groups: long necks, short necks, and the Pig-nose Turtle. There are five genera - Chelodina, Emydura, Elseya, Pseudemydura and Carettochelys - which encompass the described species. Grouped with these known species are a number of populations still to be described, sot the present total of distinct species can be regarded as temporary.

Many obstacles must be overcome before the complicated relationship between the Australian tortoises is completely understood. Tortoises of the same species may vary slightly in characteristics from one river system to the next. This often results in specimens from opposite extremes of a distribution chart being markedly different in appearance. To determine the point where a tortoise is no longer a geographical variation but warrants a separate specific name is usually difficult.

A lot of the features used in identifying species are unreliable and a foolproof key for identification has yet to be devised. John Goode (Freshwater Tortoises of Australia and New Guinea) published one based on the knowledge available in 1967; this has yet to be extended. At this stage, for the beginner, the best means of identifying the various types of tortoises is from photographs.