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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
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Asian Leaf Terrapin

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3









Species : Cyclemys dentata
Maximum carapace length : 21 cm

Fritz et al (2008) list 7 species of freshwater terrapin in the leaf turtle genus Cyclemys. This genus is centred on Southeast Asia, and its members are typically referred to as 'leaf turtles' due to the shape of their carapace.

The Asian Leaf Terrapin, or Common Leaf Turtle, is one of the more widespread of the genus. This species typically inhabits clear streams and small rivers in the lowlands and hills. It is quite elusive and sightings are uncommon. Its diet appears to be omnivorous.

As is typical for the genus, the carapace of the Asian Leaf Terrapin is oval and rounded in shape, and quite flattened (or 'depressed'). It is 'dark brown' in colour often with radiating fine black lines, and there is a raised keel running along the mid-dorsal line.

The top of the head is medium brown with  darker speckles, and there are thick, alternating dark and light brown (sometimes reddish) stripes on the neck. The plastron is yellow, and this may also be patterned with fine, dark lines. Adults develop a hinge across the plastron.

The precise distribution of most species of Cyclemys remains unclear, however Cyclemys dentata has been genetically verified in Java, Borneo and some islands of the southern Philippines (e.g. Palawan and Sulu Archipelago).

In addition, native populations of the species clearly occur in Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore although these populations have not been genetically verified (Fritz et al, 2008).

In Singapore the species is rare and is confined to forest streams, though it has been found in streams within degraded forests.

Figs 1 and 2 : Specimen from a silty, shallow forest stream in Singapore's central forests. Spotted by Noel Thomas.

Fig 3 : Close-up of the same specimen which has typical speckling on top of the head, and thick stripes along the side of the head which extend to the neck.

References :

Fritz, U.; D Guicking, M Auer, R. S Sommer, M Wink, A. K Hundsdrfer 2008. Diversity of the Southeast Asian leaf turtle genus Cyclemys: how many leaves on its tree of life?. Zoologica Scripta, 37, pp 367390.