Faculty Publications and Presentations

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Published in the Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society, 40(2):21-33, 2005.


Members of the genus Malayemys, Malayan snail-eating turtles, are small batagurid turtles reaching maximum sizes of 22 cm carapace length (Srinarumol, 1995). They have dark brown to mahogany carapaces with three discontinuous keels, yellow plastra with large dark blotches on each scute, and large black heads adorned with yellow or cream-colored stripes that extend onto their necks (Ernst et al., 2000). Malayemys inhabit lowland freshwater habitats throughout Southeast Asia including ponds, canals, streams, swamps, marshes and wet rice fields. These are diurnal bottom dwellers that feed primarily on mollusks (Smith, 1931; Taylor, 1970; Nutaphand, 1979; Srinarumol, 1995; Ernst et al., 2000; van Dijk and Thirakhupt, in press). Populations of Malayemys can be found in virtually all lowland areas of central Thailand, where they are the most commonly found wild turtle (van Dijk and Thirakupt, in press). Population status outside of central Thailand is poorly documented. Members of this genus are presumed to be abundant in southern Vietnam (Bourret, 1939; Geissler and Jungnickel, 1989; van Dijk and Thirakhupt, in press), less abundant in peninsular Thailand (van Dijk and Thirakhupt, in press), and rare on Java (van Dijk and Thirakhupt, in press; Peter C. H. Pritchard, pers. com.).

Many Southeast Asian turtle species are in rapid decline because of serious pressure from commercial exploitation and habitat destruction (Behler, 1997; Thirakhupt and van Dijk, 1997; van Dijk et al., 2000). Improved legislation and enforcement, community education, population monitoring, and life history studies are all crucial to the long-term survival of most of these species. None of this can occur, however, without detailed records on the geographic distribution of these organisms. This paper presents a detailed table and map that clearly define the geographic distribution of turtles in the genus Malayemys. No other account is based on such a complete compilation of data.