Indian flapshell turtle

They get their name from flaps of skin that cover their limbs as they retract into the shell

Rejoice Gassah

A freshwater species endemic to South Asia, it is known for its resilience and adaptability to varying environmental conditions. These turtles are commonly found in the shallow, often brackish waters of rivers, streams, marshes, ponds, and lakes, where they utilize the soft, muddy bottoms for burrowing. This behavior allows them to escape extreme temperatures and evade predators.

Their name derives from the presence of flexible flaps of skin along the carapace’s edges that cover their limbs when they retract into the shell. These “flaps” enable them to seal themselves off from the external environment, an adaptation that is particularly advantageous during dry periods.

The Indian Flapshell Turtle’s remarkable ability to withstand drought conditions is exemplified by their capability to survive without direct access to water for up to 160 days. This extraordinary feat is facilitated by their physiological adaptations, which include the ability to absorb moisture through their skin and the lining of their throats.

These turtles play a critical ecological role in their freshwater habitats. They are scavengers, feeding on carrion and helping to keep the water bodies they inhabit clean. This scavenging behavior has cultural as well as ecological implications; in India, Flapshell Turtles have been intentionally released into the river Ganges to consume the remains of human corpses following funeral rites, thus contributing to the river’s cleanliness in a spiritual and environmental context.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Afghanistan
2018
Possibly Extant
Bangladesh
2018
India
2018
Myanmar
2018
Nepal
2018
Pakistan
2018

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No