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Melanochelys tricarinata, 025

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Melanochelys tricarinata (Blyth 1856) –
Tricarinate Hill Turtle, Three-Keeled Land Turtle

Indraneil Das1

1Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation,
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, 94300 Kota Samarahan, Sarawak, Malaysia.
[[email protected]]

Summary. – The tricarinate hill turtle, Melanochelys tricarinata (Family Geoemydidae), is a small (carapace length to 174 mm), entirely terrestrial turtle from the deciduous and evergreen forests and riverine grasslands of the northern Indian subcontinent. The species appears to be rare, and is poorly known. One to three eggs are laid at a time, nesting occurring during the winter months in Assam, northeastern India. A fibrous, soft-tissue connection between the plastron and carapace develops in adult females, allowing the passage of the large eggs. Eggs measure 38–47 x 23–27 mm, and incubation period is 60–72 days, hatching taking place in February, April, and May. Hatchlings measure 33–40 mm in carapace length.

Distribution. – Bangladesh, India, Nepal. Distributed in a relatively narrow sub-Himalayan band across northeastern India, southern Nepal, and northern Bangladesh.


. – Geomyda tricarinata Blyth 1856, Geoemyda tricarinata, Chaibassia tricarinata, Nicoria tricarinata, Melanochelys tricarinata, Chaibassia theobaldi Anderson 1879, Nicoria tricarinata sivalensis Lydekker 1889, Nicoria sivalensis.


Subspecies. – None.

Status. – IUCN 2008 Red List: Vulnerable (VU B1+2c) (assessed 2000) ; CITES: Appendix I; Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act: Schedule I.


Das, I. 2009. Melanochelys tricarinata (Blyth 1856) – tricarinate hill turtle, three-keeled land turtle. In: Rhodin, A.G.J., Pritchard, P.C.H., van Dijk, P.P., Saumure, R.A., Buhlmann, K.A., Iverson, J.B., and Mittermeier, R.A. (Eds.). Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group. Chelonian Research Monographs No. 5, pp. 025.1-025.5, doi:10.3854/crm.5.025.tricarinata.v1.2009, //iucn-tftsg.org/cbftt/.

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Melanochelys tricarinata,

Dehradun, Uttaranchal, India. Adult female. Photo by Indraneil Das.




Distribution of Melanochelys tricarinata in the Indian subcontinent. Red points = museum and literature occurrence records based on Iverson (1992) plus more recent and author’s data; green shading =  projected distribution based on GIS-defined hydrologic unit compartments (HUCs) constructed around verified localities and then adding HUCs that connect known point localities in the same watershed or physiographic region, and similar habitats and elevations as verified HUCs (Buhlmann et al., unpubl. data), and adjusted based on author’s data.