|Prof. Dr. Bayram GÖÇMEN|
Zoologist, Herpetologist, Protozoologist/Parasitologist, Nature Photographer
8. TURTLES IN CYPRUS
8.1. Family: Bataguridae (formerly Emydidae)
Mauremys caspica (GMELIN, 1774) (Caspian Turtle, Stripe-necked Turtle)
Current scientific name: Mauremys rivulata
Identification: Carapace length up to 25 cm, or slightly longer; carapace ankylosed to plastron; axillar and inguinal plates present. Carapace low-domed; vertebral and costal plates with distinct central keels in young, gradually become indistinct in older specimens. The suture between the anals is shorter than that of femorals. Carapace is gray to grayish-green with reddish or yellowish markings, the plastron with large dark or black patches. The head, neck and limbs with yellowish stripes.
Habitat & Biology: Inhabits lakes, rivers, ditches, etc. Feeds on fish and other suitable aquatic animals. Hibernates under water. A female lays 9-20 eggs in terrestrial nests.
Distribution: Its range extends from NW Africa, S Europe to Turkey, Transcaucasica, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Israel, Northern Cyprus and some Aegean islands. In Northern Cyprus, M. c. rivulata (Valenciennes, 1833) is present being only in Küçük Kaymakli District, Kanli Dere River (Nicosia).
8.2. Family: Cheloniidae
Caretta caretta (LINNAEUS, 1758) (Loggerhead Turtle)
Identification: Marine, carapace up to around 100 cm in adults. Two pairs of prefrontal plates on the head; 5 pairs of costal plates on the carapace; nuchal plate in contact with the first costals. On the outer edges of the flipper-like limbs two claws at most. Usually 3 pairs of inframarginal plates, without pores. The dorsum is usually reddish-brown; the venter whitish to light yellow.
Habitat & Biology: Feeds on fish, molluscs and coelenterates. A female deposits around a hundred eggs to nests dug into beach sands. Nest building is, as in C. mydas, nocturnal. The hatchlings emerge during the night after an incubation period of approximately two months and enter the sea. Because of the touristic, urban and industrial usage of suitable nesting beaches, the Mediterranean populations are gravely endangered. To prevent their extinction, they are now protected under “Mediterranean Action Plan” (MAP).
Distribution: Widespread in warm and temperate oceans, also in the Mediterranean; sometimes seen in the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. The nests of the Mediterranean populations are usually built on the southern sandy shores of Anatolia and the northeastern shores of Northern Cyprus between Kyrenia and Dipkarpaz.
Chelonia mydas (LINNAEUS, 1758) (Green Turtle)
Identification: One of the bigger marine turtles with a carapace length up to 140 cm. Only one pair of prefrontals on head; nuchal plate does not contact the first costals; 4 pairs of costals on carapace. Each of the flipper-like limbs contain at most only one claw. Usually 4 pairs of inframarginal plates. The dorsum is grayish-brown, usually with yellowish or brownish markings. The venter is light yellow to white.
Habitat & Biology: The adult usually feeds on turtle grass and other seaweed, the young is carnivorous. A female deposits around 200 eggs to its nest dug in the beach, usually laying more than one batch (in one breeding season, up to 5 batches with a total 468 eggs have been observed). For a long time the species had an economical importance because of its edible meat and fat, so its populations dangerously decreased. The usage of its nesting sites with various aims further endangered the survival of the species in the Mediterranean basin, so now, like the loggerhead, the green turtle is also protected under MAP.
Distribution: Warm oceans, also present in the Mediterranean, rarely seen in Black Sea. Nesting sites in Turkey and Northern Cyprus exclusively in the eastern Mediterranean coasts. In Northern Cyprus, they especially nest in the sandy shores of Yayla (=Kum Köy) (Güzelyurt, Nicosia), Acapulco Vilage (Kyrenia) and Yeni Erenköy (Karpaz Region).
Figure 14: A female Mauremys caspica from Kanli Dere (Küçük Kaymakli, Nicosia), photo by B. Göçmen.
Figure 15: A head detail of the former specimen, photo by B. Göçmen.
Figure 16: A 3.5 years old Caretta caretta specimen, photo by M. K. Atatür.
Figure 17: A 3.5 years old Chelonia mydas specimen, photo by M. K. Atatür.
©Bayram GÖÇMEN, All Rights Reserved.