Skip to main content

Yellow-spotted Amazon turtle

Podocnemis unifilis

Description: The oval carapace (upper shell) of the Yellow-spotted Amazon turtle is dark brown to black and has distinct keels on the second and third vertebral scutes; the plastron (lower shell) is yellow. The olive green to brown head is marked with yellow spots that remain throughout the life of the male, but fade as the female ages. On the chin there is a single barbel. This turtle is not able to tuck its head into its shell like other turtles, instead it bends the neck sideways and tucks the head under the rim of the shell.

Size: These turtles can reach a length of 17.6 inches (45 cm) and a weight of 17.5 pounds (8 kg); females are larger than males.

Behavior: This species is diurnal (active during the day) and aquatic; coming out of the water to bask and lay eggs. Since they are cold-blooded they will bask in the sun on logs or stones to warm themselves.

Diet: Yellow-spotted Amazon turtles feed on vegetable matter, grasses, fruits, leaves, small fish and invertebrates.

Senses: The barbel on its chin is believed to be used for touch sensory.

Communication: Before breeding, males court females by nipping at their tails and feet.

Reproduction: After mating, the female comes ashore usually in the evening and lays her eggs in a shallow nest. The nest is usually made in a sandy area on the river bank. On average, thirty oval, hard- shelled eggs are laid and then covered. Incubation period is 66 to 159 days. After the egg shell ruptures, the young remain in the shell until the yolk sac is absorbed. Once they emerge from the nest, they are on their own and head toward the water.

Habitat/range: They inhabit lagoons, large lakes and tributaries of South America’s Amazon and Orinoco River basins. They will move into flooded forests when the river floods.

Status: Listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List; CITES, Appendix II.