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Geoffroy's side-necked turtle

Scientific name: Phrynops geoffroanus

Country: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, Guyana

Continent: South America

Diet: Fish, snails, small mammals and aquatic plants.In the Zoo, the turtles eat dead mice, mussels and tortoise pellets. They also relish an occasional treat of live crickets and locusts. Youngsters thrive on a diet of snails and small insects, which are dusted with multivitamin powder to assist shell growth.

Food & feeding: Carnivore

Habitats: Freshwater, tropical rainforest

Conservation status: Not Threatened

Relatives: Giant tortoise, black marsh turtle

Description: The upper shell (carapace ) is a dark colour providing good camouflage in the water. The underside of the shell (plastron) is mottled black and brown. They grow to a maximum size of around 40 cm in length and weigh over 2 kg.

Lifestyle: This species is found in rivers, lakes and slow-moving streams.

Family & friends: This species is usually solitary, although sometimes several will be seen basking in a particularly favoured spot.

Growing up: The hatchlings are only 4 cm long and weigh less than 10 grams when they hatch from eggs laid in sandy areas along the banks of rivers.

Conservation news: This species is not threatened in the wild. They are sometimes caught for food.

Bristol Zoo Gardens' group of Phrynops originated from Frankfurt, Jersey and Vienna Zoos. They were born in the mid-1980s and have bred here on numerous occasions. The water in their waterfall pool is constantly filtered and heated to about 27 degrees Celsius. They will often come out of the water to dry off and bask in the warmth.

Side-necked turtles are so called because of their habit of withdrawing their head and neck into the shell sideways for protection against predators such as caiman and jaguars.