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Rafetus swinhoei (GRAY, 1873)

IUCN Red List - Rafetus swinhoei - Critically Endangered, CR

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Higher TaxaTrionychidae (Trionychinae), Testudines (turtles) 
Common NamesShanghai Softshell Turtle, Swinhoe’s Soft-shelled Turtle 
SynonymOscaria swinhoei GRAY 1873
Trionyx swinhonis — BOULENGER 1889
Rafetus swinhoei — MEYLAN & WEBB 1988
Trionyx swinhoei — ALDERTON 1988
Yuen maculatus HEUDE
Pelochelys taihuensis ZANG
Rafetus swinhoe — RUDOLPHI & WESER 1998
Rafetus leloii HÀ DÌNH DÚC 2000
Rafetus swinhoei — FARKAS & WEBB 2003
Oscaria (Rafetus) swinhoei — BONIN et al 2006
Rafetus vietnamensis LE et al. 2010 
DistributionS China, Vietnam

Type locality: Shanghai, People's Republic of China.

vietnamensis: N Vietnam (Hoan Kiem Lake); Type locality: not explicitly given. Map legend:
TDWG region - Region according to the TDWG standard, not a precise distribution map.

NOTE: TDWG regions are generated automatically from the text in the distribution field and not in every cases it works well. We are working on it.
TypesHolotype: BMNH 1946.1.22.9 (formerly and its skull, numbered separately as BMNH 1947.3.6.13.
Holotype: HK1 (”Hung Ky specimen”, Ngoc Son Temple and Hoa Binh Museum) [vietnamensis] 
CommentPreviously considered as a synonym of Pelodiscus (=Trionyx) sinensis.

This is one of the most endangered turtle species according to a 2003 assessment by the IUCN.

Synonymy: The description of Rafetus vietnamensis is very vague (see diagnosis). Rhodin et al (2010) provisionally synonymized vietnamensis with swinhoei and Farkas et al. (2011) do so formally.

Diagnosis (vietnamensis): “The giant fresh water soft-shelled turtle differs significantly from all the described genera in its body size, living conditions, appearance, skull morphology and DNA sequence. The diagnosis focused on identification of the species by using the specific characteristics of the wide and blunt appearance of the skull with a blunt curved maxillary arch, the giant size of the body, its habitat and especially the DNA sequence comparisons” [from LE TRAN BINH et al. 2010]. 
  • Bettelheim, Matthew P. 2012. Swinhoe's Softshell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei): The legendary Sword Lake Turtle of Hoan Kiem Lake. Bibliotheca Herpetologica 10 (1): 4-20
  • Bonin, F., Devaux, B. & Dupré, A. 2006. Turtles of the World. English translation by P.C.H. Pritchard. Johns Hopkins University Press, 416 pp.
  • Boulenger, G.A. 1889. Catalogue of the Chelonians, Rhynchocephalians, and Crocodiles in the British Museum (Natural History). British Museum, London, 311 pp.
  • Ernst,C.H. and Barbour,R.W. 1989. Turtles of the World. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C. - London
  • Farkas B, Fritz U 1998. On the identity of Rafetus swinhoei (GRAY 1873) and Pelochelys maculatus (HEUDE 1880) (Reptilia: Testudines: Trionychidae). Zool. Abh. Staatl. Tierk. Dresden 50 (1): 50 (1): 59-75 - get paper here
  • Farkas, B. & Webb, R.G. 2003. Rafetus leloii HÀ DÌNH DÚC 2000, an invalid species of softshell turtle from Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi, Vietnam (Reptilia, Testudines, Trionychidae). Zool. Abh. (Dresden) 53: 107-112
  • Farkas, Balázs; Minh Duc Le, and Truong Quang Nguyen 2011. Rafetus vietnamensis Le, Le, Tran, Phan, Phan, Tran, Pham, Nguyen, Nong, Phan, Dinh, Truong and Ha, 2010 – another invalid name for an invalid species of softshell turtle (Reptilia: Testudines: Trionychidae). Russ. J. Herpetol. 18 91): 65 – 72 - get paper here
  • Gray,J.E. 1873. Notes on Chinese mud-tortoises (Trionychidae), with the description of a new species sent to the British Museum by Mr. Swinhoe, and observations on the male organ of this family. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (4) 12: 156-161 - get paper here
  • Jian, Wang; Shi Hai-Tao, Wen Cheng, and Han Lian-Xian 2013. Habitat Selection and Conservation Suggestions for the Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtle (Rafetus swinhoei) in the Upper Red River, China. Chelonian Conservation and Biology Jul 2013, Vol. 12, No. 1: 177-184. - get paper here
  • Kuchling, Gerald, Dingqi Rao and Shunqing Lu. 2013. In search of China's last Giant Softshell Turtles (Rafetus swinhoei). Turtle Survival Alliance 2013: 44
  • Kuchling, Gerald, Lu Shunqing and Rao Dingqi. 2014. Challenges for Rafetus in China continue to mount. Turtle Survival 2014: 50 - get paper here
  • Le Tran; Le Quang Huan, Tran My Linh, Phan Trong Hoang, Phan Minh Tuan, Tran Thi Thanh Huyen, Pham Thu Thuy, Nguyen Dang Ton, Nong Van Hai, Phan Van Chi, Dinh Duy Khang, Truong Nam Hai, Ha Dinh Duc 2010. COMPARATIVE MORPHOLOGICAL AND DNA ANALYSIS OF SPECIMENS OF GIANT FRESHWATER SOFT-SHELLED TURTLE IN VIETNAM RELATED TO HOAN KIEM TURTLE. Tạp chí Công nghệ Sinh học 8(3A): 949-954
  • Meylan, P. & R.G. Webb. 1988. Rafetus swinhoei (Gray) 1873, a valid species of living soft-shelled turtle (Family Trionychidae) from China. Journal of Herpetology 22 (1): 118-119 - get paper here
  • Rudolphi, Michael and Ronald Weser. 1998. Die Weichschildkröten Nordvietnams unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Nackendornen-Weichschildkröte, Palea steindachneri (Siebenrock, 1906). Sauria 20 (1): 2-14. - get paper here
  • Sang, Nguyen Van; Ho Thu Cuc, Nguyen, Quang Truong 2009. Herpetofauna of Vietnam. Chimaira, Frankfurt, 768 pp.
  • Siebenrock, F. 1902. Zur Systematik der Schildkrötenfamilie Trionychidae Bell, nebst der Beschreibung einer neuen Cyclanorbis - Art. Sitzungsber. K. Akad. Wiss. Wien. Math-Naturwiss. Cl. 111: 807-846 - get paper here
  • ZHOU, T; P-P Li. 2007. Chelonian species diversity and current status in China. (in Chinese). Sichuan Journal of Zoology 26 (2):463-467 - get paper here
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