Scientific Name: Lissemys puntata
Family : Trionychidae
Tamil Name : Paal aamai
Description: The female is larger than the male. Recognized by the presence of skin flaps for hiding the tail and hind leg. The front and back part of the shell can completely hide the retracted head and limbs.. Head oval and terminating in a tubular nostril. Eyes rather prominent. Legs fully webbed.
Distribution and status: The Indian flap shell turtle is found in Pakistan, India (common in lakes and rivers), Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh (Indus and Ganges drainages), and Burma (Irrawaddy and Salween Rivers). They are endangered and the Indian flap shell turtle was placed in Appendix I of CITES in 1975 at the request of Bangladesh. This was later removed in India as it was the common aquatic turtle in India.
Habitat: This widely distributed turtle inhabits ponds and tanks connected with or independent of the river systems throughout the Indian subcontinent. Indian Flap shell lives in the shallow, quiet, often stagnant waters of rivers, streams, marshes, ponds, lakes and irrigation canals, and tanks. Waters with sand or mud bottoms are preferred because of the turtle’s tendency to burrow. L. punctata turtle plays an important role to reduce pollution in aquatic ecosystems by feeding on snails, insects, and fragments of dead animals.
Habits: These turtles are very well adapted, both morphologically and behaviorally, to drought conditions. The turtle uses mainly burrowing and moving from water hole to water hole to avoid desiccation. The femoral flaps that cover the retracted legs help the turtle survive dry conditions. The species is provided with two glands that secret a foul smelling fluid when disturbed. Those that live in non perennial waters aestivate in the mud
Food: The Indian flapshell turtle is known to be omnivorous. Its diet consists of frogs, fishes, shrimp, snails, aquatic vegetation, plant leaves, flowers, fruits, grasses, and seeds.
Life Cycle: The turtles become reproductively active at age 2 or 3. Courtship and mating behavior is unique. Males initiate the act of copulation in female after a courtship display. After acceptance females lie in the sand when the male dose the reproductive act. Eggs are laid during the rainy season which hatches around the same time. Eggs are spherical.
Role in the enviromment :The rivers of the Indogangetic plain are inhabited by some of the largest existing population of freshwater turtles. Their population is getting reduced due to the illegal trade for human consumption.