What do they look like? The female is considerably larger than the male with a carapace up to 28 cm long compared to the males which rarely get bigger than about 18 cm. The carapace is roughly oval and broad at the rear. They are not usually aggressive, but can bite fiercely. They can also emit a strong smell.
The shell has marginal serrations which are the reason for its common name, the “Saw-shelled turtle”. It retains some of these serrations throughout its life. “The head shield extends down the side of the head to just above the tympanum, and the top of the neck has prominent pointed tubercules (many of these with an apical sensory pit).
The carapace is mainly brown to dark brown, commonly with some dark blotches. Theplastron (underside) is yellowish. The head is large with a projecting snout and a horny plate on the top. The neck can fold sideways. The feet are webbed and also clawed. Hatchlings have serrated hind legs which become smooth as they mature
Where do they live: It is endemic to Australia ranging along rivers and streams and connected swamps and lagoons from coastal Cape York Peninsular to northern New south Wales with populations also noted as far south as Newcastle – (Williams River Catchment site of the former Tilligra Dam). They are thought to have been introduced to Lake Eacham in the Atherton Tableland
What do they eat? The Saw-shelled turtle is carnivorous and feeds on fish, tadpoles, frogs, aquatic insects and is one of the few native Australian animals successful in preying on the introduced and very poisonous cane toad. Toads too large to swallow whole are first shredded with their front claws.
Behaviour: Like many other aquatic turtles, saw-shelled turtle is able to obtain oxygen from water through skin, cloaca and buccopharyngeal cavity, thus extending its ability to stay underwater for prolonged periods.
Reproduction: The females nest from September to December. They can have three to four clutches in one season of between 9 and 36 eggs which hatch before winter in about 60 days, with the incubation period shortened in southern regions. The eggs are variably described as either, “hard-shelled (34 X 22 mm)”, or as small and “flexible-shelled.