Elseya lavarackorum (White & Archer, 1994)



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Emydura lavarackorum White & Archer, 1994 (original combination)


Conservation Status

Extinct or rediscovered

Last record: Pleistocene


Described as a fossil species (White & Archer, 1994), it was later considered to have been discovered alive as a living fossil (Thomson et al., 1997). However, newer research indicates that the living population represents a different, undescribed species (Joseph-Ouni et al., 2020) which is known as the Gulf snapping turtle, though a newer study finds that the extant population should be considered E. lavarackorum (Thomson et al., 2023).



Northern Territory/Queensland border, Australia


Biology & Ecology










Original scientific description:

White, A. and Archer, M. (1994). Emydura lavarackorum, a new Pleistocene turtle (Pleurodira: Chelidae) from fluviatile deposits at Riversleigh, Northwestern Queensland. Records of the South Australian Museum 27: 159-167.


Other references:

Archer, Michael, Arena, Derrick A. et al. (2006). Current status of species-level representation in faunas from selected fossil localities in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area, northwestern Queensland. Alcheringa, Special Issue 1: 1-17.

Curtis, Lee K., Dennis, Andrew J., McDonald, Keith R., Kyne, Peter M. and Debus, Stephen J. S. (eds.). Queensland's Threatened Animals. Collingwood, Victoria: CSIRO Publishing. xv + 449 pp.

Ferronato, Bruno de Oliveira and Georges, Arthur. (2023). Distribution of Freshwater Turtle Rock Art and Archaeological Sites in Australia: a Glimpse into Aboriginal Use of Chelonians. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 18(2): 374-391.

Joseph-Ouni, M., McCord, W.P., Cann, J., Smales, I., Freeman, A., Sadlier, R., Couper, P., White, A. and Amey, A. (2020). The relics of Riversleigh: Re-examination of the fossil record of Elseya (Testudines: Chelidae) with description of a new extant species from the Gulf of Carpentaria drainages, Queensland, Australia. The Batagur Monographs 3: 7-69.

Maguire, Kemii. (10 December, 2020). Turtle gets new name as researchers discover mistaken identity. ABC News (online).

Thomson, Scott A. (2000). A revision of the fossil chelid turtles (Pleurodira) described by C.W. de Vis, 1897. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 45(2): 593-598.

Thomson, Scott A., Friol, Natália R, White, Arthur, Wedd, Dion and Georges, Arthur. (2023). The Australian gulf snapping turtle Elseya lavarackorum (Testudines: Chelidae) revisited—Is the late Pleistocene fossil species extant? Vertebrate Zoology 73: 237-256.

Thomson, Scott A., White, A. and Georges, A. (1997). Re-evaluation of Emydura lavarackorum: identification of a living fossil. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 42(1): 327-336.


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