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Yellow-spotted Amazon River turtle

Scientific name: Podocnemis unifilis

Country: Guyana, French Guiana, Venezuela, Colombia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil

Continent: South America

Diet: Fruits, leaves, fish and molluscs.

Food & feeding: Omnivore

Habitats: Freshwater, tropical rainforest

Conservation status: Vulnerable

Relatives: Geoffroy's side-necked turtle, giant tortoise

Description: The males of the species in particular have bright yellow blotches of colour on the head. They have strongly webbed feet and an oval shell, dark on top, which is slightly domed. They can grow to a length of 45 cm and weigh 8 kg.

Lifestyle: These turtles live in the rivers of the vast jungles of South America. At certain times of the year the rivers flood and the turtles can move away from the river channels and into the forest. During the dry season they return to the main river channels, where they look for the fruits, weed, small fish and invertebrates that make up their diet.

Family & friends: They like to sun themselves in small groups, on logs or rocks in the middle of the river.

Growing up: Females lay eggs in sandy areas on the banks of the river, sometimes close to the nest of other females. Females are believed to produce two clutches of eggs in the same year. She lays 30 eggs on average that hatch between 66 and 159 days after laying. The eggs are laid at the peak of the dry season and sometimes the nests are destroyed by rising floodwaters at the beginning of the rains before all the eggs have hatched. The shell (or carapace) of a turtle develops at quite a late stage within the egg. The shell is made up of several bony plates that grow together along the line of the ribs to form a single bony shield - a bit like the bony plates that make up our own skulls.

Conservation news: They are a vulnerable species in the wild because they are a popular food item in some South American countries. Females are killed when they come ashore to lay their eggs, and the eggs are also collected and eaten.

The turtles at Bristol Zoo Gardens came from Frankfurt Zoo in 1990.