November 15, 2021 – An international team of scientists from the United States, France, Australia and Germany, including Senckenberg researcher Uwe Fritz, has just published the ninth edition of the “Turtles of the world” atlas. The publication includes not only detailed descriptions of the 357 turtle species, but also information on the endangered status of all species and a comparison of their current and original ranges. The results presented by the research group led by lead author Anders GJ Rhodin (Chelonian Research Foundation and Turtle Conservancy) are alarming: About half of the world’s turtle species are threatened with extinction. Animals are particularly affected by habitat loss and excessive capture for consumption and the pet trade.
With a shell length of 226 centimeters, the leatherback turtle Dermochelys coriacea is the largest sea turtle in the world. On land, the Seychelles giant tortoise Aldabrachelys gigantea sports an impressive shell up to 138 centimeters in length. Vallarta Mud Turtle Kinosternon vogti is much smaller – the shell of the world’s smallest freshwater turtle is only 10.2 centimeters. These animal kingdom records can all be found in the ninth edition of the “Turtles of the World” Atlas, which was released today. “Here we provide a compilation of the 357 scientifically recognized turtle species in the world that still exist today,” explains Professor Uwe Fritz of the Senckenberg Natural History Collections in Dresden, and he continues: “But this does That’s not all: in the new edition we have also highlighted the risk status of turtles and compared their original range with their current distribution. With this, we provide national and international legislation as well as the conservation of nature and species with a solid basis for action. “
No less than 171 species of turtles are considered threatened – five species and subspecies each have already gone extinct in history and in the recent past. “Large species that depend on specific habitats are particularly affected. For example, all large species of Asian turtles that were originally found in estuaries or rivers are threatened with extinction. Their habitats are increasingly restricted, their eggs are poached by humans and even today large animals are still slaughtered for food, ”said the Dresden herpetologist. According to the study, turtles are among the most endangered vertebrates in the world – only primates appear with a higher percentage on the endangered species list.
The ranges of almost all turtle species have shrunk considerably from their original habitats. The reasons are habitat loss and degradation of previous habitats due to overexploitation or alteration. The beaches of the great Burmese-roofed turtle Batagur trivittata and the Burmese star turtle Geochelone platynota in Myanmar, as well as the habitats of the South African geometric turtle Geometric Psammobates, have decreased by at least 90 percent.
“These are dramatic numbers that must lead to full protection of turtles as quickly as possible. Otherwise, these animals, who witnessed the rise and fall of dinosaurs, will be lost forever! Fritz warns.
Publication: Turtles of the world: annotated checklist and atlas of taxonomy, synonym, distribution and conservation status (9th edition). In: Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the UICN / SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. ISSN (monographic series): 1088-7105. ISBN: 978-0-9910368-3-7 (online): https://iucn-tftsg.org/cbftt/