Dermatemys – Central American river turtle

Sole family members is one of the most endangered freshwater turtles on earth

A species of large freshwater turtles characterized by their highly aquatic lifestyle and herbivorous diet. Unlike their carnivorous counterparts, hicatees feed exclusively on plant matter, making them unique among freshwater turtles.

Despite their ecological significance as herbivores, Central American river turtles face numerous threats, primarily driven by human activities. Their large size and flavorful meat have made them targets for overexploitation, rendering them increasingly rare across their native range. Central American river turtle populations have been decimated in some watersheds, leading to their complete disappearance from certain areas.

Inhabiting diverse freshwater environments, the Central American river turtle demonstrates remarkable adaptability. They are found in various aquatic habitats, ranging from deep, pristine water bodies to muddy backwaters and temporary, seasonal pools. As long as there is an ample food supply, these turtles can thrive in diverse ecological conditions, underscoring their resilience to environmental variability.

Central American river turtles are known for their shy and secretive nature. They are primarily nocturnal, spending their days basking on rocks or logs near the water’s edge. During the breeding season, females lay their eggs in nests dug in sandy riverbanks.

Despite their generalist tendencies, hicatees are highly sensitive to habitat degradation and human disturbances. Pollution, habitat destruction, and illegal harvesting threaten their survival, exacerbating population declines across their range. Conservation efforts aimed at protecting hicatee habitats and mitigating anthropogenic impacts are crucial for ensuring the long-term viability of this species.