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Cuora mouhotii (Gray 1862)

  • Cuora mouhotii mouhotii

  • Cuora mouhotii obsti (Fritz, Andreas & Lehr 1998)

The keeled box turtle, Cuora mouhotii, has one of the largest ranges of all Cuora species, occuring in southern China (Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan Provinces) through almost the entire mountainous regions of Vietnam (south to at least Khanh Hoa), northern Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Rhakine, Chin, Kachin, Kayah, Shan), eastern Bangladesh (Chittatong hills) and into India (Nagaland, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur) and Bhutan. Its occurrence in  northern Thailand seem possible, but claims have not been thoroughly substantiated. 

The species is predominantly terrestrial and inhabits rainforest at medium elevations at 100-700 m (rarely up to 1100m in certain area) ASL, preferring rocky areas where it spends most of its time hidden in holes and small caves. It is highly carnivorous and mainly preys upon insects and snails.

Taxonomically, this species once had its own genus, Pyxidea (Gray, 1862), due to its unique morphological characters superficially resembling Cyclemys spp. However, genetic analyses showed that this is indeed a Cuora species. 

The species reaches a size of 15 to 25 cm SCL.

The southern Vietnamese subspecies, C. m. obsti, can be differentiated from the nominate form (C. m. mouhotii) by its dorsally more rounded carapace, the fine grayish reticulations on its head and soft parts and the plastral pattern. While the plastral scute seams of C. m. mouhotii show narrow black bands, C. m. obsti have black blotches of varying degree. While it was long believed that C. m. obsti is confined to southern Vietnam (from  southern Quang Binh south to Khanh Hoa province) and adjacent Cambodia (Ratanikiri Province) and southeastern Laos, evidence suggests that it might occur in Myanmar, overlapping/intergrading with the nominate subspecies in several areas. Specimens from India and other parts o Myanmar seem more closely related to the nominate subspecies, but ongoing genetic studies will resolve this question soon.

C. mouhotii can still be encountered with some frequency (compared to almost all other Cuora species, except C. amboinensis) in some areas of its wide range, but is severely threatened in other areas (particularly China and Vietnam) due to over-harvesting/poaching for the medicine trade, food trade, and habitat destruction.




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