IUCN   ::   Species Survival Commission     ::     Chelonian Research Foundation    ::    Turtle Conservation Fund      ::      Turtle Conservancy     ::      re: wild     ::      Turtle Survival Alliance

Melanochelys trijuga, 038

Download pdf

Melanochelys trijuga (Schweigger 1812) –
Indian Black Turtle

Indraneil Das1 and S. Bhupathy2

1Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation,
Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, 94300 Kota Samarahan, Sarawak, Malaysia [[email protected]];
2Sálim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History,
Anaikatty (PO), Coimbatore 641 108, Tamil Nadu, India [[email protected]]


Summary. – The Indian black turtle, Melanochelys trijuga (Family Geoemydidae), is a medium-sized (carapace length to 38.3 cm), mainly still-water species from northern, northeastern, and peninsular India, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, and possibly Pakistan. Six subspecies are currently recognized. The turtle has been introduced to some of the islands of the western Indian Ocean by seafarers. Omnivorous in dietary habits, the species takes aquatic plants in addition to invertebrates and carrion. Two to 16 elongated, brittle-shelled eggs are laid, with eggs and hatchlings showing considerable size variation. The species, although in no immediate danger in India, is exploited in unknown numbers for food, and population declines have been reported from Sri Lanka.

Distribution. – Bangladesh, China (?), India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan (?), Sri Lanka, Thailand. Widespread in northern and northeastern India with a second widespread disjunct range in southern peninsular India, including Sri Lanka. Also occurs in southern Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, western Thailand, and possibly eastern Pakistan and southwestern China. Also found in the Maldives (probably introduced), and introduced to Diego Garcia and the Chagos Archipelago.

Synonymy. – Emys trijuga Schweigger 1812, Clemmys (Clemmys) trijuga, Melanochelys trijuga, Nicoria trijuga, Geoemyda trijuga, Emys belangeri Lesson 1831, Clemmys theobaldi Lydekker 1885, Bellia theobaldi, Clemmys hydraspica Lydekker 1885, Clemmys punjabiensis Lydekker 1885.

Subspecies. – Six subspecies are currently recognized: 1) Melanochelys trijuga trijuga (Indian Black Turtle) (synonymy: Emys trijuga Schweigger 1812, Geoemyda trijuga trijuga, Emys trijuga madraspatana Anderson 1879, Geoemyda trijuga plumbea Annandale 1915) (distribution: peninsular India, excluding the west coast); 2) Melanochelys trijuga coronata (Cochin Black Turtle) (synonymy: Emys trijuga coronata Anderson 1879, Nicoria trijuga coronata, Geoemyda trijuga coronata) (distribution: the west coast and associated hills of peninsular India); 3) Melanochelys trijuga edeniana (Burmese Black Turtle) (synonymy: Melanochelys edeniana Theobald 1876, Nicoria trijuga edeniana, Geoemyda trijuga edeniana, Emys trijuga edeniana, Melanochelys edeniana edeniana, Emys trijuga burmana Anderson 1879, Geoemyda trijuga wiroti Reimann in Nutaphand 1979, Melanochelys trijuga wiroti, Melanochelys edeniana wiroti) (distribution: Myanmar); 4) Melanochelys trijuga indopeninsularis (Bengal Black Turtle) (synonymy: Geoemyda indopeninsularis Annandale 1913, Geoemyda trijuga indopeninsularis, Melanochelys edeniana indopeninsularis) (distribution: northern and eastern India, southern Nepal, and Bangladesh); 5) Melanochelys trijuga parkeri (Parker’s Black Turtle) (synonymy: Melanochelys trijuga parkeri Deraniyagala 1939, Geoemyda trijuga parkeri) (distribution: northern Sri Lanka); and 6) Melanochelys trijuga thermalis (Sri Lanka Black Turtle) (synonymy: Emys thermalis Lesson 1830, Clemmys thermalis, Nicoria trijuga thermalis, Geoemyda trijuga thermalis, Emys sebae Gray 1831, Melanochelys sebae, Emys trijuga sebae) (distribution: southeastern India and southern Sri Lanka).

Status. – IUCN 2009 Red List: Near Threatened (LR/nt, assessed 2000); CITES: Not Listed.


Das, I. and Bhupathy, S. 2009. Melanochelys trijuga (Schweigger 1812) – Indian black 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. 038.1–038.9, doi:10.3854/crm.5.038.trijuga.v1.2009, //iucn-tftsg.org/cbftt/.