Revised Type Locality and Distribution of the Data Deficient Chelodina kuchlingi and a Review of its Status as a Distinct Species

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The description of Chelodina kuchlingi was based on a single holotype with the type locality Kalumburu in the northern Kimberley, Western Australia. Over the last decade, C. kuchlingi was variously considered a valid species, or its validity was questioned because the accuracy of the type locality was questioned, or it was listed as synonym of Chelodina rugosa. Serum-immunological data published 45 yrs ago, suggesting a sister species status of the then still-undescribed species to C. rugosa, were recently corroborated by mitochondrial DNA technology. Accordingly, in the most recent International Union for Conservation of Nature Draft Red List assessment, C. kuchlingi is considered to represent a valid, Data Deficient species. A review of documents from the 1960s demonstrates that mix-ups of collection data of various turtle specimens occurred between their collection in the Kimberley in 1965 and 1966 and their accession in the Western Australian Museum 9-24 mo later. Three specimens of C. kuchlingi, including the holotype, were evidently collected in 1965 at Parry Creek in the eastern Kimberley. An additional C. kuchlingi specimen was collected at this location in 1974. Turtle surveys in the Kalumburu area since 1974 have not recorded C. kuchlingi. The type locality of Chelodina kuchlingiCann 1997 is corrected accordingly and clarified as Parry Creek, lower Ord River floodplain, Kimberley, Western Australia (ICZN Recommend. 76A.2). The currently known distribution of C. kuchlingi is restricted to this site. Damming of the Ord River in the 1960s and 1970s and large-scale agricultural developments changed the hydrology of the floodplain and established an open channel connectivity close to the Victoria River catchment in the Northern Territory. Turtle collections and surveys in the Parry Creek area during the 21st Century have not detected C. kuchlingi and only recorded Chelodina walloyarrina and C. rugose-like specimens. Chelodina rugosa is widespread in the Northern Territory and Queensland but had never been recorded in the Kimberley prior to 2007. A targeted survey is urgently needed to investigate if a recent invasion by its common and widespread sister species is threatening the persistence of the rare and localized C. kuchlingi.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)48-57
Number of pages10
JournalChelonian Conservation and Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


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