Big-headed turtle
Zolw wielkoglowy.jpg
A big-headed turtle (Platysternon megacephalum)
CITES Appendix I (CITES)[2]
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Superfamily: Testudinoidea
Family: Platysternidae
Gray, 1869[3]
Genus: Platysternon
Gray, 1831[3]
P. megacephalum
Binomial name
Platysternon megacephalum
Gray, 1831[3]
Platysternon megacephalum megacephalum
  • Platysternon megacephalum Gray, 1831
  • Platisternon megacephalus Gray, 1834
  • Platysternon megacephalus Gray, 1835
  • Emys megacephala Schlegel, 1838
  • Platysternon magacephalum Fitzinger, 1843 (ex errore)
  • Platysternum megacephalum Boulenger, 1889
  • Platysternon platycephalum Mertens, 1959 (ex errore)
  • Platysternum megalocephalum Stanek, 1959 (ex errore)
  • Platysternon megacephalum megacephalum Wermuth, 1960
  • Platysternon magacephalum megacephalum Pritchard, 1979
  • Platysternon megacephalum tristernalis Schleich & Gruber, 1984
  • Platysternon megacephalum tristornalis Alderton, 1988 (ex errore)
Platysternon megacephalum peguense
  • Platysternon peguense Gray, 1870
  • Platysternon megacephalum peguense Wermuth, 1960
  • Platysternon megacephalum vogeli Wermuth, 1969
  • Platysternon megacephalum penguense Nutaphand, 1979 (ex errore)
  • Platysternon megacephalum penuense Nutaphand, 1979 (ex errore)
  • Platysternon megacephalum peguensis Sharma, 1998 (ex errore)
Platysternon megacephalum shiui
  • Platysternon megacephalum shiui Ernst & McCord, 1987

The big-headed turtle (Platysternon megacephalum) is a species of turtle in the family Platysternidae from Southeast Asia and southern China.[3]


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Previously considered a distinct family placed on occasion in "Kinosternoidea", it was later moved to the Emydidae. With the Geoemydidae being split off from these, it seems wisest to reinstate the Platysternidae.[editorializing] This, as well as the subfamily and the genus Platysternon, are monotypic.


It is found in Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam.[1][3]


Illustration from Indian Zoology (1830-1834) by John Edward Gray
Illustration from Indian Zoology (1830-1834) by John Edward Gray
Platysternon megacephalum - MHNT
Platysternon megacephalum - MHNT

The big-headed turtle is known to readily climb over obstacles in and around rivers and fast streams, using its tail as a prop to extend the reach of its strong claws; it also uses its beak to assist in climbing.[5] It has been reported to climb trees and bushes. It is not a strong swimmer, and when swimming, this species occasionally arches its tail in the manner of a scorpion.[5] The big-headed turtle cannot pull its head in its shell. That being the case, it will not hesitate to use its powerful jaws to defend itself. It is a fish, snail and worm[6] eater.


The big-headed turtle is readily consumed in Asia and is frequently a market item. Hunters capture them on lines with baited straight pins, so this species is rapidly disappearing in the wild.[7] The species is also threatened by its use in the pet trade.[1]


In addition, two other subspecies, P. m. tristernalis (1984) and P. m. vogeli (1969), have been given, but may be invalid.[8]


  1. ^ a b c Fong, J.; Hoang, H.; Li, P.; McCormack, T.; Rao, D.-Q.; Timmins, R.J.; Wang, L.; van Dijk, P.P. (2021). "Platysternon megacephalum". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2021: e.T17585A1423706. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2021-2.RLTS.T17585A1423706.en. Retrieved 15 November 2021.
  2. ^ "Appendices | CITES". Retrieved 2022-01-14.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Rhodin 2010, pp. 000.107
  4. ^ Fritz, Uwe; Peter Havaš (2007). "Checklist of Chelonians of the World" (PDF). Vertebrate Zoology. 57 (2): 264–265. ISSN 1864-5755. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-05-01. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  5. ^ a b Kirkpatrick, David T. 1995. Platysternon megacephalum. Reptile & Amphibian Magazine, November/December 1995, pages 40 – 47. C/R. Archived May 22, 2011, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved 2012-11-25.
  6. ^ "Platysternon megacephalum (Big-headed Turtle)".
  7. ^ James E. Barzyk Turtles in Crisis: The Asian Food Markets. The article itself is not dated, but mostly refers to data in the range 1995-2000.
  8. ^ Platysternon megacephalum Archived May 22, 2011, at the Wayback Machine