5 – Turtles of Cooper Creek – life in the slow lane 57 Eastern long-necked turtles live in the Cooper catchment, but only as far south as Lake Dunn, near the town of Aramac. Further south along the Cooper becomes problematic for this species because of the long dry periods between flooding and the distances between waterholes which make overland migration difficult. Cooper Creek turtle Surprisingly, the Cooper Creek turtle (Fig. 5.1) survives in Cooper waterholes (Fig. 5.3), all the way down to Innamincka. It also occurs at low densities in the Diamantina River. Unlike the Eastern long-necked turtle, the Cooper Creek turtle must have access to free-standing water at all times to survive. As a subspecies of Murray River turtle (Emydura macquarii), the Cooper Creek turtle is catholic in its diet, eating algae, freshwater sponges, flowers, fruits and leaves of terrestrial plants when they become available as litterfall or through inundation, and various sedentary animals, including aquatic and terrestrial insects, crustaceans and carrion. As a short-necked turtle, it lacks the long neck of eastern long-necked turtle, and so is unable to secure moving prey such as fish and some mobile invertebrates (Chessman 1986). The turtles can move extensively onto the floodplains during floods. For example, one individual moved 20 km between Broadwater billabong on Lochern National Park to Fig. 5.2. Eastern long-necked turtles live in the upper reaches of the Lake Eyre Basin, favouring temporary waters and taking advantage of the production boom in invertebrate life when they fill (photo, A. Emmott).
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