Chelodina mccordiMcCord's Snakeneck Turtle

Geographic Range

McCord's snakeneck turtle is found exclusively on the tiny island of Rote in Indonesia. It has an extremely limited distribution, with just two known populations on the island, existing on a patch of 70 square kilometers. (Kuchling, et al., 2013; Rhodin, et al., 2010; Rhodin, 1994; Rhodin, 1995; Rhodin, et al., 2008)


Chelodina mccordi is found in shallow freshwater lakes and wetlands, also in adjacent rice fields. Much of their habitat is only wet during the rainy season (December through March), but then are dry for the rest of the year. Turtles that are not in permantly wet habitats will take refuge During the dry season, underneath boulders, rocks, and drifts of leaves in adjacent forests, rather than burrow and remain dormant in the mud. They will not venture into brackish waters of any type. (Kuchling, et al., 2013; Rhodin, 1994; Rhodin, et al., 2008)

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds
  • rivers and streams
  • temporary pools
  • Range elevation
    0 to 100 m
    0.00 to 328.08 ft

Physical Description

Chelodina mccordi has a somewhat rough shell that is wide and oval, and widens the most toward the tail. The carapace typically is a dull brown color, and the plastron is pale grey colored. Females are typically longer than their male counterparts of the same age, and their mass is comparable to other snake-necked turtles. The head and neck is bumpy with wart-like projections, and like all snake-necked turtles it has a long neck, about two-thirds the length of the carapace. The neck is a darker brown than the shell, with a lighter underside, and the face has ringed eyes. (Jarrett, 2011)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • Range mass
    444 to 816 g
    15.65 to 28.76 oz
  • Average mass
    602 g
    21.22 oz
  • Range length
    150 to 214 mm
    5.91 to 8.43 in
  • Average length
    179 mm
    7.05 in


Incubation takes four months resulting in hatchlings that average 25.5 mm in carapace length. One observation of a wild juvenile indicates that C. mccordi developed three growth rings (annuli) per scute. Such annuli are not found in adults due to weathering making which makes the annuli inaccurate for aging in older turltes (Avise and Pearse, 2001; Jarrett, 2011; Rhodin, et al., 2008)


Mating practices for McCord's snakeneck turtle appear to resemble other more common snake-necked turtles. Males pursue their mates from behind. Mating occurs in water, and courtship culminates when the male is able to grasp the carapace of his partner with its claws from behind. The mating system is assumed to be polygnandrous which is common in the family Chelidae. (Avise and Pearse, 2001; Jarrett, 2011; Rhodin, et al., 2010)

Chelodina mccordi nesting habit are not well known, but their movements increase as they transition from water to land after the mating period. Eggs are laid as early as late February, continuing to September, with hatchlings appearing in November, near the start of the rainy season. Chelodina mccordi in captivy have clutch sizes from 9 to 13 eggs. The eggs are average in size relative to other chelids with a size of 29.8 mm in length by 20.1 mm in width. Hatchlings are measured to a mean of 25.5 mm in carapace length. (Jarrett, 2011; Kuchling, et al., 2013; Rhodin, et al., 2008)

  • Breeding interval
    Roti island snake necked turtles breed up to three times yearly
  • Breeding season
    Copulation occurs February through September, summer eggs are laid from February through September and hatch in November.
  • Range number of offspring
    9 to 13
  • Range gestation period
    112 to 179 days
  • Average gestation period
    146 days
  • Range time to independence
    3 to 4 months
  • Average time to independence
    3 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    7 to 8 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    7 to 8 years

As far as is known, provisioning eggs and nesting are the largest parental investment, as is true for chelids generally. (Rhodin, et al., 2008)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female


The lifespan of Chelodina mccordi remains relatively unknown, as the documentation of an entire lifespan has not been completed. However, other snake-necked turtles have a lifespan of 30 to 40 years. (Kennet, et al., 2009)


Chelodina mccordi are commonly nocturnal. During the wet season they hunt in shallow freshwater habitats. They may be found on land during the dry seasons. Their only regular movements are from drying aquatic habitats to forest refuges during dry seasons. They are solitary, and aestivate under rocks and boulders during dry periods. Roti island snake-necked turtles are ambush predators, using their long necks to quickly seize prey. (Rhodin, et al., 2010; Rhodin, et al., 2008)

Communication and Perception

Communication and perception are not well-known in Chelodina mccordi. It is suspected they use the release of pheromones, touching, and animated movement to attract mates. Visual, auditory, and tactile senses are all utilized in the perception of the surrounding environment. (Jarrett, 2011; Kuchling, et al., 2013)

Food Habits

The skull and jaw of C. mccordi do not show morphological specializations compared to other snake-necked turtles, and this is believed to indicate that this species is a generalist carnivore or piscivore. Insects, small fish and tadpoles are reported to be of importance to the diet of C. mccordi. (Kennet, et al., 2009; Kuchling, et al., 2013)

  • Animal Foods
  • amphibians
  • fish
  • carrion
  • insects
  • mollusks
  • aquatic or marine worms
  • Plant Foods
  • algae


Roti island snakenecks can produce a foul-smelling musk to discourage predators, and can tuck their neck and head into their shell for protection. Except for humans, adults are they are believed to have few predators. Feral pigs (Sus scrofa) are known to eat eggs and adult turtles. Hatchlings might be eaten by wading birds and other medium-sized predators, if present on the island. (Kuchling, et al., 2013; Rhodin, et al., 2010)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

Chelodina mccordi might be a top-level predator in the small aquatic habitats it lives in. Parasites for this species have not been described. (Kuchling, et al., 2013; Rhodin, et al., 2010)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Island residents used this species as a minor food source in the past. At present the turtle is in extremely high demand in the pet trade, so much so that this is a very urgent threat to the survival of the species. The capture and sale of these turtles has occurred since the early 1990s. (Kuchling, et al., 2013; Rhodin, et al., 2010)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are documented no adverse effects of C. mccordi on humans.

Conservation Status

Chelodina mccordi is in great danger of extinction. It is listed by the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered. It is listed in CITES Appendix I for zero export quota, meaning it is illegal to transport. In the 5 years following its description as a unique species, excessive harvesting depleted the population to near extinction, and commercial trade in the species collapsed. The numerous trade sanctions have limited the transport of the turtle away from the island of Rote, but the population remains threatened. (Kuchling, et al., 2013; Rhodin, et al., 2010; Rhodin, et al., 2008)


John Myers (author), Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne, Mark Jordan (editor), Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, George Hammond (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


flesh of dead animals.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


mainly lives in water that is not salty.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

island endemic

animals that live only on an island or set of islands.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


marshes are wetland areas often dominated by grasses and reeds.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


chemicals released into air or water that are detected by and responded to by other animals of the same species


an animal that mainly eats fish


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


Avise, J., D. Pearse. 2001. Turtle Mating Systems: Behavior, Sperm Storage, and Genetic Paternity. Journal of Heredity, Volume 92. Issue 2: 206-211. Accessed March 25, 2016 at

Jarrett, M. 2011. "Chelodina longicollis" (On-line). Animal Diversity Web. Accessed March 29, 2016 at

Kennet, R., J. Roe, K. Hodges, A. Georges. 2009. Chelodina longicollis (Shaw 1794) – Eastern Long-Necked Turtle, Common Long-Necked Turtle, Common Snake-Necked Turtle.. Pp. 1-8 in Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises, Vol. 31. IUCN: Chelonian Research Foundation.

Kuchling, G., W. Fotijne, C. Shepherd. 2013. Consideration of proposals for amendments to Appendices I and II, Chelodina mccordi. Sixteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties, Bankok, Thailand. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, 16: 1-11. Accessed February 20, 2016 at

Rhodin, A. 1994. A New Species of Chelodina from Roti Island. Chelid Turtles of the Australasian Archipelago, 497: 1-31. Accessed February 20, 2016 at

Rhodin, A. 1995. Status and Conservation of Chelodina mccordi an Isolated and Restricted Freshwater Turtle from Roti Island. International Congress of Chelonian Conservation, 1: 67. Accessed February 20, 2016 at

Rhodin, A., B. Ibarrondo, G. Kuchling. 2008. Roti Island Snake-Neck Turtle. Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises, 5: 008.1-008.8. Accessed February 22, 2016 at

Rhodin, A., P. van Dijk, J. Iverson, H. Shaffer. 2010. Turtles of the World, 2010 Update:. Annotated Checklist of Taxonomy, Synonymy, Distribution, and Conservation Status, 2: 000.80-000.120. Accessed February 22, 2016 at