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Staurotypus salvinii, Pacific Coast Giant Musk Turtle
Dr. Heather A. Jamniczky - University of Calgary
Dr. Anthony P. Russell, University of Calgary
Staurotypus salvinii
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Chelonian Research Institute/Peter C.H. Pritchard (PCHP xxxx)

Image processing: Dr. Ashley Gosselin-Ildari
Publication Date: 06 Mar 2008


Staurotypus salvinii, the Pacific Coast giant musk turtle, is a member of Kinosternidae within Cryptodira. Kinosternidae contains three extant genera and several extinct taxa (Bonin et al., 2006). Long thought to be the sister-group to Trionychidae (e.g., Gaffney, 1975), the relationship of this taxon to other turtles has recently been called into question on the basis of both molecular and morphological features (e.g., Shaffer et al., 1997).

Staurotypus salviniiStaurotypus salvinii is a moderate-sized turtle whose carapace length may reach 25 cm (Ernst and Barbour, 1989; Bonin et al., 2006). Its skull is large for its body size, and exhibits temporal emargination and a secondary palate (Ernst and Barbour, 1989). The oval carapace exhibits three distinct keels and is not serrated, while the small plastron has a slight hinge. Staurotypus salvinii varies in color from olive gray to dark brown, with yellow or orange markings on the head. Staurotypus salvinii and the other species of Staurotypus, S. triporcatus, are unique among kinosternids in the possession of male sex chromosomes (e.g., Bull et al., 1974; Sites et al., 1979).

Staurotypus salvinii inhabits slow-moving bodies of freshwater with soft bottoms and abundant vegetation, from southern Mexico to El Salvador and Guatemala (Ernst and Barbour, 1989; Bonin et al., 2006). It is carnivorous, feeding on aquatic invertebrates, amphibians, and small fish. Females lay several clutches of six to ten eggs per year. Staurotypus salvinii is aggressive and can deliver a powerful bite (Ernst and Barbour, 1989; Bonin et al., 2006).

About the Species

This specimen was made available to the University of Texas High-Resolution X-ray CT Facility for scanning by Dr. Heather Jamniczky of the University of Calgary. Funding was provided by Dr. Jamniczky and by a National Science Foundation Digital Libraries Initiative grant to Dr. Timothy Rowe of the University of Texas at Austin.

About this Specimen

This specimen was scanned by Matthew Colbert on 2 August 2004 along the coronal axis for a total of 555 slices. Each 1024 x 1024 pixel slice is 0.145 mm thick with an interslice spacing of 0.145 mm and a field of reconstruction of 60 mm.

About the


Bickham, J.W. and J.L. Carr. 1983. Taxonomy and phylogeny of the higher categories of cryptodiran turtles based on a cladistic analysis of chromosomal data. Copeia 1983:918-932.

Bonin, F., Devaux, B., and A. Dupré. 2006. Turtles of the World. Translated by P.C.H. Pritchard. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore MD.

Bull, J.J., Moon, R.G. and J.M. Legler. 1974. Male heterogamety in Kinosternid turtles (genus Staurotypus). Cytogenetics and Cell Genetics 13:419-425.

Ernst, C.H. and R.W. Barbour. 1989. Turtles of the World. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC.

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Gaffney, E.S. and P.A. Meylan. 1988. A phylogeny of turtles. In: Benton, M.J., editor. The Phylogeny and Classification of the Tetrapods, Volume 1: Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds. Clarendon Press, Oxford, pp. 157-219.

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Meylan, P.A. and E.S. Gaffney. 1989. The skeletal morphology of the Cretaceous cryptodiran turtle, Adocus, and the relationships of the Trionychoidea. American Museum Novitates 2941:1-60.

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Shaffer, H.B., Meylan, P., and M.L. McKnight. 1997. Tests of turtle phylogeny: molecular, morphological, and paleontological approaches. Systematic Biology 46:235-268.

Sites, J.W., Bickham, J.W. and M.W. Haiduk. 1979. Derived X-chromosome in the turtle genus Staurotypus. Science 206:1410-1412.

& Links

Front page image.

Staurotypus salvinii

To cite this page: Dr. Heather A. Jamniczky, Dr. Anthony P. Russell, University of Calgary, 2008, "Staurotypus salvinii" (On-line), Digital Morphology. Accessed July 12, 2024 at http://digimorph.org/specimens/Staurotypus_salvinii/.

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