Macleay River Turtle

At the outset, let me explain that yes, I realise the Macleay river is no where near N.Queensland - not even in the same state - so shaky finger off the comment button okay?.

We do however, have at least one of its turtles here in the wet tropics.

We're gonna need some background:

Friends of ours were moving inter-state. And one of them was round having a cuppa and discussing the ins and outs of the move.

The subject of the turtle came up and general agreement was made that it's not very pleasant for these guys to travel long distances, not to mention the license muck about and the bastardry of moving glass bloody aquariums ...

But I honestly didn't think that much more about it.

Long story short, a while later we were asked if we'd take on the little bloke. And, of course - we said yes.

Anyway, today I sent through a pic to his previous carers which got me thinking:

This fellow is so, so groovy - that he deserves his very own post, (as out of keeping with the overall 'theme' of this blog that may be).

Anyway - it's my blog, I guess that means I can post whatever the hell I choose right?.


So here he is:

Emydura macquarii

And breathe ...

Being ferociously handsome

with a winning smile

Pacific blue-eye F

Pacific blue-eye M

As you have no doubt surmised, these turtles are a fresh-water species, although some salt should be added to their water as it helps prevent infections and generally makes for a happier turtle.

The fish pictured are native to N.QLD - the Pacific blue-eye (Pseudomugil signifer). These pics don't quite do them justice, esp the male who flares his beautiful fins when displaying to females and or rival males.

We have nine in the tank with the turtle, there used to be ten ... but you know - 'turtle'.

Actually, they're in the tank not just for decoration, but to add a little stimulation for our Testudines friend.

He does try to snack on them and as I mentioned - seems to have succeeded on one occasion. Still, try as he might - the fish are more than a match.

I have to say that watching the earnest little reptile attempt to sneak up on his fishy tank-mates is one of those 'Look! - look, he's doing it again' kinda moments.

I've never cared for a turtle before, but Ryder (the chap who kindly asked us to look after him), filled us in on the general do's and don'ts ... so far things seem to be going swimmingly (ahem ... sorry).

Like all pleurodirous turtles, the chelids withdraw their necks sideways into their shells, differing from cryptodires that fold their necks in the vertical plane.

They are all highly aquatic species with webbed feet and the capacity to stay submerged for long periods of time. The snake-necked species (genera Chelus, Chelodina, and Hydromedusa) are largely strike-and-gape hunters or foragers feeding on fish, invertebrates, and gastropods.

There is an absolute wealth of info regarding turtle husbandry to be found on the interwebnet and the ice in my glass is beginning to melt so here's a couple for your perusal:

Caring For Australian Turtles

Macleay river turtle

Seriously, a frog has just landed on a plant next to me, so I've got to go. Huge thanks and big hugs to Ryder and Erin for introducing us to such an amazing turtle.

As always, until next time - take care, Paul :)

Fun Fact
Turtle shells are made up of about 60 bones that are covered by plates, (scutes) made of keratin - as is your hair, fingernails and skin!

The Chelidae are one of three living families of the turtle suborder Pleurodira and are commonly called the Austro-South American side-neck turtles.

The family is distributed in Australia, New Guinea, parts of Indonesia, and throughout most of South America. It is a large family of turtles with a significant fossil history dating back to the Cretaceous.

The family is entirely Gondwanan in origin, with no members found outside of Gondwana, either in the present day or as a fossil.^

Dangerous Australian Marine Wildlife Part I

Aussie, Oz, Down-under - no matter what moniker it goes by there's one thing that visitors to this land all seem to ask at one time or another: 'Why is everything trying to kill me?'.

At first glance, it's a fair question. Australia is indeed endowed with some of the most venomous, toxic and potentially dangerous animals and plants on the planet.

However, context is important, so I thought we'd take an unordered look at some of our less than loved critters and see just how "Dangerous" they really are.

Beginning with: Chironex fleckeri, the infamous Box Jellyfish.

Chironex fleckeri Source: ViralPortal

Carybdea branchi Sth Africa Source: Two Oceans Aquarium

Carukia barnesi Credit: Dr Lisa-ann Gershwin CSIRO 

Carukia barnesi, (The Common Irukandji pictured above), is one of the worlds smallest Box Jellies and is one of an unknown number of species believed to be responsible for Irukandji Syndrome. An extremely unpleasant reaction to the animals venom that can include:

Excruciating muscle cramps in the arms and legs, severe pain in the back and kidneys, a burning sensation of the skin and face, headaches, nausea, restlessness, sweating, vomiting, an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, and psychological phenomena such as the feeling of impending doom.

The sting is moderately irritating; the severe syndrome is delayed for 5–120 minutes (30 minutes on average). With symptoms lasting from hours to weeks. Victims usually require hospitalisation. ^

Only two deaths have been attributed to the Irukandji, although this figure could be low due to misappropriation. Around 50-100 people are hospitalised annually in Australia.

In Oz, the Box Jelly (or 'Marine Stinger'), has been responsible for the deaths of at least 70 people but probably more, with an average of one person a year being killed after coming in contact with them. As dangerous as these animals undoubtedly are, here in Australia we actually get off pretty lightly:

In parts of the Malay Archipelago, the number of lethal cases is far higher (in the Philippines alone, an estimated 20-40 people die annually from Chirodropid stings), likely due to limited access to medical facilities and antivenom ^

It would be nigh on impossible to overlook our next dangerous Australians. The Sharks:

Sharks have been getting a bad rap for as long as people have ventured into and on to the sea. Tales of catastrophic losses of life abound - with one in particular being forever immortalised by the movie Jaws (1975).

The USS Indianapolis was sunk by the Japanese on July 29 1945. Of the 1,196 men aboard, an est 900 made it into the water alive. Their ordeal, considered the worst shark attack in history, was just beginning.

The first night, the sharks focused on the floating dead. But the survivors’ struggles in the water and the scent of blood only attracted more sharks. As the sharks turned their attentions toward the living, especially the injured and the bleeding, sailors tried to quarantine themselves from anyone with an open wound, when someone died, they would push the body away.

When eventually rescued, only 317 of the Indianapolis’ original 1,196-man crew remained.

Estimates of the number who died from shark attacks range from a few dozen to almost 150. ^

In Australia, shark attacks are heavily reported by the media: Fatal shark attacks in WA since 2000

Recently people (often those most at risk from shark attack), have been rallying to the animals defence:

A navy clearance diver who lost a leg and a forearm in a shark attack has come out against the Western Australian shark cull, describing it as "stupid" and a "knee-jerk reaction".

Paul de Gelder was on exercises in Sydney Harbour in 2009 when he was attacked by a bull shark that bit off his arm and leg. Since then he has had to use specially made prosthetics.

But despite his experience, Mr de Gelder, originally of Canberra, said he was completely against Premier Colin Barnett's proposed shark cull, spelling out his opposition in a blog post on Wednesday morning. ^

The above quote is referencing the push by Western Australias' premier Colin Barnett to introduce shark culls following a spate of attacks.

What many Australians (and therefore visitors to these shores may not be aware of), is the continued and long-term culling of sharks in other states and territories:

Nearly 700 sharks have been killed in the last year*, in Queensland's shark control program.

Figures from the Fisheries Department reveal that in the 12 months to August, 667 sharks including endangered species such as the great white and grey nurses were killed.

Around 100 dolphins, turtles and dugongs were also unintentionally killed. ^

*Article quoted was published in 2014

Lemon Shark (Negaprion acutidens) Credit Albert kok 

The Lemon Shark (above), is classed as potentially dangerous and has attacked people. However, according to the good people at The International Shark Attack File none of these attacks were in Australian waters - so we can (respectfully), move on.

The following shark is another story entirely. The mighty, and highly aggressive Bull Shark.

Bull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas) Credit: Albert kok

Studies have shown that the Bull Shark has the highest levels of testosterone ever measured in any animal - land or sea. A while ago I learnt first-hand just how pugilistic these animals can be:

A friend and I were working in the Top End (Cape York), and had decided to cruise out to a river mouth to do a spot of fishing. We settled in and I managed to snag myself a 'Barra' ... things were looking up when suddenly Dan's line went ballistic. After a short but violent struggle he managed to get the fish close to the beach.

Being a helpful sort'a bloke I splashed in and grasped the shark by the tail in order to get it onto land where we could remove the hook (we had no intention of killing the shark). Unfortunately, the shark wasn't aware of this, and with astonishing speed promptly brought its head around in an impossible arch, its gnashing teeth barely missing my exposed calf.

The accuracy and speed of the 'strike' was mind blowing ... and this while the animal was out of the water!.

About 1.8m T/L (The hook was removed and the shark released)

Obviously, the shark was simply defending itself - I've included the experience just to highlight how easy it can be to inadvertently place yourself at risk, and perhaps even more importantly skew animal 'attack' statistics.

So what's the reality? Are our sharks really that dangerous?. Regrettably, the statistical answer is yes. Oz is a world leader when it comes to fatal unprovoked shark attacks.

I wonder though, if this doesn't say more about us and our behaviour, than it does about our sharks and theirs?.

Time to move on to some of our perhaps less known potentially dangerous critters.

The Blue-ringed octopus:

Hapalochlaena sp Credit: David Breneman 

Credit: Elias Levy

Despite its small size the blue-ringed octopus carries enough venom to kill up to twenty-six adult humans within minutes.

Bites are often painless, with many victims not realising they have been envenomated until respiratory distress and paralysis start to set in.

No blue-ringed octopus antivenom is available yet, making it one of the potentially deadliest reef inhabitants in the ocean. Edited ^

This exquisite octopus is, perhaps, a bit of a stretch for this list as it's so shy and retiring - with (so far as I am aware), all known envenomations a result of the octopus being harrassed. That said, it has caused at least three fatalities (two in Australia and one in Singapore ^).

Not to mention that its venom is really quite remarkable. So on the list it stays.

The major neurotoxin component of the blue-ringed octopus is a compound that was originally known as maculotoxin but was later found to be identical to tetrodotoxin, a neurotoxin also found in pufferfish, and in some poison dart frogs.

Tetrodotoxin is 1,200 times more toxic than cyanide. Its action blocks sodium channels, causing motor paralysis and respiratory arrest within minutes of exposure.

As noted above - this small animal is of little actual threat to people when left alone, however its 'reputation' belies this fact. Perhaps there's more going on here than an ancient continent jam-packed with bloody thirsty wildlife eh?

More to come in Part II


Huge thanks to everyone who made their beautiful photographs and research available for use. I have done my utmost to credit accurately. However, if I haven't gotten it right, please contact me either through the comments section or by PM on twitter via @Garden_Guests. And I'll sort it out ASAP.

Till next time, take care -

Paul :)