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article imageBetter late than never: Mexico turtle declared new species

By AFP     Jun 13, 2018 in Science

Slow and steady wins the race, the saying goes -- and it seems to have worked for a small type of turtle native to western Mexico that has been declared a new species.

For 20 years, residents of the area around Puerto Vallarta, a Pacific coast resort town, had been telling scientists about the little turtles native to their area.

But it was only in May that zoologists were able to identify them as the world's newest species, Kinosternon vogti -- named for American herpetologist Richard Vogt, who has studied US, Mexican and Central American turtles for more than four decades.

A reseacher examines one of the turtles  named Kinosternon vogti  at the University of Guadalajara
A reseacher examines one of the turtles, named Kinosternon vogti, at the University of Guadalajara
ULISES RUIZ, AFP

The good news came with a dose of bad, however: the turtles, recognizable by a yellow spot on the tip of the nose, are also endangered.

"They are found only here, in the streams and rivers around Puerto Vallarta," said Fabio German Cupul, a researcher at the University of Guadalajara.

Measuring just 10 centimeters (four inches) long, the tiny turtles easily fit in the palm of a hand.

Scientists say these turtles as wider than they are long
Scientists say these turtles as wider than they are long
ULISES RUIZ, AFP

"They are wider than they are tall, unlike every other (turtle) species," Cupul told AFP.

Just four of the turtles have been documented so far, he said: three males and a female.

Five more were found dead and taken to the country's largest university, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, for research.

Of the surviving turtles, one male and one female have been taken to a reproduction center in hopes they will procreate.

The other two males have been taken to a wildlife park in Puerto Vallarta.

The find was published in Chelonian Conservation and Biology, an academic journal specialized in turtles and tortoises.

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