This family contains a single species, Dermatemys mawii, sometimes called the river turtle. The range is restricted to Central America. The preferred habitats include large rivers and lakes.

The river turtle is almost totally aquatic and performs a large amount of gas exchange though the lining of the nasal passage.

D. mawii grows to 65cm in carapace length and is olive to gray in coloration. The carapace lacks a keel. Diagnostic characters include the morphology of the temporal region of the skull and buttressing of the shell.

Dermatemydids are most closely related to the mud and musk turtles (Kinosternidae), based on several skeletal characters, including the shape of the cervical vertebrae.

Fossils of extinct members of the Dermatemydidae extend the modern range to include eastern Asia, Europe, and North America. The chronological range of fossil finds extends from the Cretaceous through the Miocene.

Ernst, C.H., and Barbour, R.W. 1989. Turtles of the World. Smithsonian Inst. Press, Washington, D.C.

Pough, F.H., Andrews, R.M., Cadle, J.E., Crump, M.L., Savitzky, A.H., and Wells, K.D. 2000. Herpetology, 2nd ed. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ.


Keith Pecor (author).


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.


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


having the capacity to move from one place to another.