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Cuora amboinensis (Daudin 1802)

  • Cuora amboinensis amboinensis

  • Cuora amboinensis couro (Schweigger 1812)

  • Cuora amboinensis kamaroma (Rummler & Fritz 1991)

  • Cuora amboinensis lineata (Mccord & Philippen 1998)


Cuora amboinensis  was the first Cuora species described to science by Daudin in 1802, based upon a specimen from the Island of Ambon, Maluku (Moluccas). The holotype has since been lost.

This species has the largest distribution area of any Cuora species and indeed any Geoemydid species, ranging throughout Indonesia (with the Exception of Papua), southern and central Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, eastern Bangladesh, Myanmar, eastern India (Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur , Nagaland, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh) and into southern Buthan, covering about 1.6 Mio KM².

Four subspecies are currently regarded as valid, but this might soon change (see our Projects Page for further info on this).

The nominate subspecies of Cuora amboinensis, C. a. amboinensis, has a comparatively flat profile, with the shell appearing quite round viewed from above. Several studies have assessed variability within this subspecies, which inhabits a huge range - Sulawesi, the Malaku Islands and the islands in the Celebes and Banda Seas. It is generally believed that populations from the Philippines also belong to this subspecies. Even relatively recent morphological studies, (e.g. Ernst et al. 2016) found all of these populations to represent C. a. amboinensis. Relying entirely on old, sometimes mislabeled specimens that have lost their colors etc. in such investigations can impede recognition of greater diversity in wide-ranging species/subspecies.
Hopefully, genetic studies will provide a clearer view on this, in our opinion, a "species complex" in which cryptic (or perhaps not-so-cryptic) diversity may be identified. Some biologists believe that Philippine populations constitute an evolutionary significant unit - a subspecies - distinct from other C. a. amboinensis populations. Specimens in this population are smaller, less rounded and more domed than other nominate populations. Furthermore, coloration in Philippine C. amboinensis is quite different from that of adjacent populations, showing finer whitish head stripes compared to broad yellow stripes in C. a. amboinensis. The pupil in Philippine specimens has a completely different pattern - forming a broad black pattern vs. being finely shaped in C. a. amboinensis. The head is much wider in typical C. a. amboinensis than in Philippine specimens. The plastral pattern in C. a.amboinensis is highly variable, ranging from nearly entirely black to yellow with or without black spots, while showing clear separated spots arranged in a rather uniform pattern in Philippine specimens. Soft parts in Sulawesi C. a. amboinensis show colorful reticulations, while being uniformly greyish to cream-colored in Philippine specimens.

The Philippines population usually stays in the 12-15 cm straight carapace length (SCL) range, while C. a. amboinensis from Sulawesi and the Mollucas usually attain larger sizes of 18-21 cm SCL.

C. a. couro inhabits Java and the Sunda Islands east up to Timor, and shows intermediate characteristics (carapace profile and soft part patterns) between C. a. amboinensis and C. a. kamaroma. It reaches an SCL of 18-24 cm.

C. a. kamaroma inhabits the southeast Asian mainland including Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and eastern Myanmar, and also some islands including Sumatra, Borneo (both Malaysian and Indonesian sections), and the Nicobar and Andaman Islands of India. C. a. kamaroma is more terrestrial than the former subspecies and its carapace is high-domed. It can grow to 18-26 cm SCL.

C. a. lineata, also more terrestrial than C. a. amboinensis and C. a. cuoro, inhabits eastern India, Bhutan and Myanmar, has a high-domed carapace with yellowish stripes along the costal and vertebral scutes, from which the subspecific epithet lineata was derived. It reaches sizes of 15-24 cm SCL.

While generally still pretty abundant in many parts of its range, C. amboinensis is still intensely hunted for local consumption and export to China, and some populations have been heavily depleted.




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