Butt-breathing turtle that can stay underwater for 72 hours is endangered

April 17, 2018, 2:59 p.m.

The Mary River turtle (Elusor macrurus), a native to Queensland, Australia, is a decidedly unique turtle that few people know about — and it's already facing extinction, according to the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

On the ZSL's list of Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered or EDGE reptiles, the Mary River turtle ranks No. 29. The turtle faces a few challenges, not the least of which is its slow rate of sexual maturation. The Mary River turtle isn't able to reproduce until around age 25. Coupled with habitat loss due to dam construction and eggs collected for the pet trade, this docile turtle's population has declined steadily since the 1970s.

That it faces extinction isn't what makes the Mary River turtle unique, however. The turtle is the only species of its genus, having diverged from other turtles about 40 million years ago. Adding to its unusual nature, the Mary River turtle can breathe underwater thanks to specialized glands in its cloaca, an opening in its rear that's also used for reproduction and excretion.

Thanks to this adaptation, the Mary River turtle can stay underwater for up to 72 hours. Because of how long it spends underwater, algae will grow on the turtle's flesh and shell, which you can catch a flash of in the video above.

"Reptiles often receive the short end of the stick in conservation terms, compared with the likes of birds and mammals," Rikki Gumbs, coordinator of the EDGE list for reptiles, told The Guardian.

"The EDGE reptiles list highlights just how unique, vulnerable and amazing these creatures really are."

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