Amazon River Turtle

Podocnemis unifilis

Fascinating Facts

Physical Characteristics

One of the largest South American river turtles, this species can be recognized by its dark upper shell and the yellow spots that adorn its head, though these fade with age. Females can be twice as large as males. They have strongly webbed feet and an oval shell, dark on top, which is slightly domed. They can grow to a length of 45 cm and weigh 8 kg.


These turtles inhabit South America's Amazon River. They occupy tributaries and lakes connected to the Amazon River, though when the river floods, they will branch out to flooded forests.

These turtles eat a range of foods, from fruit and plant materials to fish and small invertebrates.

Social Behavior

The yellow-spotted Amazon River turtle is diurnal and is most active in mid-morning and afternoon. Groups of turtles can be seen basking in the sun on logs or stones in the middle of rivers and on the shore.

As ectothermic (cold-blooded) animals, this behavior functions to warm their bodies. They are also very aquatic, only coming out of the water to bask.

Status In The Wild

They are a vulnerable species in the wild because they are a popular food item in some South American countries.


You can find them in the South American Tropical Forest.

Animals & Exhibits