font settings and languages

Font Size: Large | Normal | Small
Font Face: Verdana | Geneva | Georgia

Podocnemis unifilis

(Yellow-spotted River Turtle)


[ Back to top ]


Threat status

Common Names

[ Back to top ]

Click on the language to view common names.

Common Names in Chinese:


Common Names in Dutch:

Zwarte moerasschildpad

Common Names in English:

Yellow-spotted River Turtle, Yellow headed Sideneck, Yellow spotted Amazon River Turtle, Yellow spotted river turtle, Yellow spotted Sideneck Turtle, Yellow-headed Sideneck, Yellow-Spotted Amazon River Turtle, Yellow-spotted Sideneck Turtle

Common Names in French:

Podocn?mide de Cayenne, Podocnémide De Cayenne

Common Names in German:

Terekay Schienenschildkröte

Common Names in Japanese:


Common Names in Portuguese:


Common Names in Quechua:


Common Names in Russian:

Черепаха желтопятнистая амазонская или желтоголовая бокошейная

Common Names in Spanish:

Terecay, Tracaja

Common Names in Spanish, Castilian:


Common Names in Ukrainian:



[ Back to top ]

Physical Description

Species Podocnemis unifilis

The Yellow-spotted Amazon turtle, Podocnemis unifilis , grows to a length of 12 to17 1/2 inches. The carapace (upper shell ) is dark brown to black, and has a distinct keel (prominent ridge ) on the second and third vertebral scutes . The front legs have five claws and the hind legs are webbed with four claws. The head is dominated by paired frontal scales , which meet along a distinct groove between the eyes.

Turtles of this genus have two or three barbels (an elongated sensory projection) under the chin. The Yellow-spotted Amazon has only one, hence the name unifilis.

Juveniles have greenish irises and black heads spotted with bright yellow. Adult females have grayish skin , black irises, and they lose most of their yellow head spots. Their carapace is dark brown, often with a dark median streak. Adult males are smaller than females. They retain their yellow head spots, have a longer thicker tail, grayish skin, and greenish irises.


Yellow-spotted amazons are found in Northern South America, Venezuela and Surinam to northern Brazil; mainly in Amazon and Orinoco river drainages , in large rivers, backwaters , lagoons , and flooded forests . They usually inhabit rivers only during mating season . At other times they live in lagoons and backwaters.

Ecology: Semi-aquatic[1].


[ Back to top ]


These turtles are herbivorous, feeding on aquatic vegetation and fruits of waterside plants . They open their mouths at the water surface filling it with fine particulate surface food. Then it closes its mouth, filtering water through its nostrils and jaw.


Females congregate on and near the beach during the nesting season for several days to bask . Males also congregate, but do not usually bask.

A relatively shallow nest , 6-10 inches, is dug in a variety of substrates, preferably on sandy beaches. 14 to 49 elongated, hard-shelled eggs are laid, approximately 1-3/4 x 1-1/4 inches. The nest is filled, then stamped flat with an open foot and loosely swept over. Two clutches may be laid per season.

Incubation is 75 to 90 days, averaging 84. The shell is first ruptured at approximately 64 days. The young remain in the shell several days until the yolk sac is completely absorbed. They gather at the top of the nest chamber and emerge after another two weeks, at night and usually after rain.


[ Back to top ]


Chelys (Hydraspis) lataEmys cayennensisEmys cayennensis Schweigger 1812: 298 • Emys terekay SCHINZ 1833< /i> (Fide Pritchard & Trebbau 1984) • Podocnemis cayennensis — David 1994 • Podocnemis unifilis — Gorzula & SeÑaris 1999 • Podocnemis unifilis — Kahl Et Al. 1980: 117 • Testudo terekay


Name Status: Accepted Name .

Comment: Holotype: ZMB 142, now lost (fide KING & BURKE 1989). Mittermeier and Wilson (1974) and Wermuth and Mertens (1977:121) believe Emys cayennensis Schweigger 1812 may be an older name applicable to this species. Acting on Fretey's (1977) information about the type specimens of Emys dumeriliana and E. cayennensis, Hoogmoed and Gruber (1983:346) concluded that dumeriliana was an older available name for unifilis, and that cayennensis was a junior synonym of P. expansa. Pritchard and Trebbau's (1984) review showed the holotype of E. cayennensis, MHNH 8359, is a P. unifilis and that action by the Intl. Comm. Zool. Nomencl. may be necessary to suppress the variously applied cayennensis in favor of the more stable unifilis (after KING & BURKE 1989).

Similar Species

[ Back to top ]

Members of the genus Podocnemis

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 6 species and subspecies in this genus:

P. erythrocephala (Red-Headed Amazon River Turtle) · P. expansa (South American River Turtle) · P. lewyana (Magdalena River Turtle) · P. sextuberculata (Six-Tubercled Amazon River Turtle) · P. unifilis (Yellow-Spotted River Turtle) · P. vogli (Savanna Side-Necked Turtle)

More Info

[ Back to top ]

Further Reading

[ Back to top ]


[ Back to top ]


Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal February 27, 2008:



  1. Tortoise & Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group 1996. Podocnemis unifilis. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. <>. Downloaded on 04 February 2012. [back]
Last Revised: 2014-11-30