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African Side-Necked Turtles: Pelomedusidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Although these side-necked turtles can be quite noticeable in their habitat, scientists know very little about their behavior. The turtles bask, spending warm days sunning themselves near the shoreline. They are especially active during the wet season, when they may roam over land. When the weather turns dry, many side-necked turtles seek shelter underground. Those that live in the cool, mild climate of the far south of Africa may hibernate, or become inactive, on land or under water through the winter months.

These turtles breed during late spring or summer, with the females laying six to four dozen oblong-shaped eggs. Scientists suspect that the turtles may have more than one set of young every year. The outside temperature controls how many eggs in a clutch, or group, will develop into males and how many will develop into females. Scientists call this "temperature-dependent sex determination," or TDSD. If the weather is constantly warm or especially cool, most of the young are females. If the weather is more temperate, or mild, most are males.


Although few people would think that turtles get much of their food from rhinoceroses, several African side-necked turtles do rely on the large mammals for some of their food. The turtles do not eat the rhinos but rather wait for them to wade into a water hole and then swim up to nibble off the ticks that cling to their hides. Rhinos are not the only buffet table for the turtles. They will do the same with other large herding animals that stop by for a drink.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesAfrican Side-Necked Turtles: Pelomedusidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Helmeted Turtle (pelomedusa Subrufa): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, AFRICAN SIDE-NECKED TURTLES AND PEOPLE