List of Turtles, Terrapins and Tortoises of Trinidad and Tobago

List of Turtles, Terrapins and Tortoises (Order: Chelonia)

Turtles and tortoises are highly distinctive reptiles with a shell of dermal bone fused to the vertebrae and ribs in the carapace or upper shell. The plastron, or lower shell is fused to the clavicle and sternum and elements of the pectoral girdle. The carapace and plastron are joined by a bridge. These are long lived, egg laying vertebrates that lack teeth. There are relatively few species, only about 260 in 13 families. Thirteen species in seven families are suspected to inhabit Trinidad and Tobago.

Family: Chelidae - The Austro-American Side-necked Turtles
These freshwater turtles have a neck that is incompletely retractile and thus lays to one side. The family contains 37 species in nine genera. Two species occur in Trinidad.

Scientific Name
Local Name
Trinidad
Tobago
Chelus fimbriatus
Doctor galap, matamata
X
Phrynops gibbus
Gibba turtle
X

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Family: Cheloniidae - Sea Turtles
Sea turtles have paddle-like limbs and compressed, streamlined shells; are 75 - 150 cm in length; and may attain weights of 450 kg. These animals mature slowly; some may nor reach sexual maturity until they are 20 -25 year old. Only females of these species leave the water, and only then to lay eggs. Sea turtles are the most economically important reptiles because of demand for their meat, eggs, and shells; and this demand has pushed all of these large turtles to the brink of extinction. Five living genera contain six species, four of which nest on the beaches of Trinidad and Tobago.

Scientific Name
Local Name
Trinidad
Tobago
Caretta caretta
Loggerhead
X
X
Chelonia mydas
Green turtle, green, green-back, green sea turtle, edible turtle, green-back turtle, common turtle
X
X
Eretmochelys imbricata imbricata
Hawksbill, oxbill
X
X
Lepidochelys olivacea
Olive Ridley, batali
X

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Family: Dermochelyidae -Leatherback Turtles
This family contains only one living species which is the world's largest turtle. It exceeds 2 m in shell length and reaches weights exceeding 900 kg. It is the most frequently seen turtle on the beaches of Trinidad and Tobago.  This species has many unique characteristics that distinguish it greatly from other sea turtles.  Its metabolic rate is three times higher than one would expect for a reptile of its size, coupled with counter current heat exchangers and large size, allow it to maintain a body temperature above that of the surrounding water.  It also has a shell that lacks the bony scutes of other turtles, being comprised of mainly connective tissue.
Scientific Name
Local Name
Trinidad
Tobago
Dermochelys coriacea
Leather back, coffin-back turtle
X
X

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Family: Emydidae - Pond and River Turtles
These turtles have aquatic and terrestrial habits and are omnivorous;  about 90 species in more than 31 genera comprise this family. Sizes are variable and range from only 11 cm (Clemmys) to nearly 60 cm (Kachuga) in carapace length. Coloration is also quite variable. The family doesn't have a distinguishing suite of superficial characters. In some species, the carapace is domed, while most have a low-arching carapace. The plastron is hinged and movable in some, while fixed in others. One species occurs in Trinidad.
Scientific Name
Local Name
Trinidad
Tobago
Rhinoclemmys punctularia punctularia
Galap
X

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Family: Kinosternidae - Mud and Musk Turtles
These are small, less that 250 mm, carnivorous, aquatic turtles that walk the bottom of ponds and streams in search of food and mates, but occasionally forage on land and use terrestrial retreats. Three genera and about 22 living species make up this family. Only one species occurs in Trinidad.
Scientific Name
Local Name
Trinidad
Tobago
Kinosternon scorpioides scorpioides
Scorpion mud turtle
X

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Family: Testudinidae - Tortoises
These are terrestrial turtles. Tortoise is the name given to the land-dwelling reptiles most of whose body is shielded by a special shell. Turtles and terrapins are the aquatic species. All living tortoises are members of the order Testudines. Tortoises have both an endoskeleton and an exoskeleton. All tortoises have a protective shell around their bodies. The top part of their case is called the carapace, the underside is the plastron, and the two are connected by the bridge. The size of tortoises can vary from a few centimetres to up to two meters. Tortoises generally live a long time, some individuals being known to have lived longer than 150 years. Because of this, they symbolize longevity in some cultures, such as China.  Ten genera with more than 40 species comprise the family. Two species occur in Trinidad.
Scientific Name
Local Name
Trinidad
Tobago
Geochelone carbonaria
Red-footed tortoise
X
Geochelone dentiulata
Yellow-footed tortoise
X

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Source: Murphy, John C. (1997), Amphibians and Reptiles of Trinidad and Tobago
Krieger Publishing Company
This book is highly recommended.
For further information please contact the publisher at:
Phone in United States 800-724-0025 or 321-724-9542
www.krieger-publishing.com