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Big Headed Turtle (Platysternon Megacephalum)

The big headed turtle is akin to the Platysternidae family and native to Southeast Asia and Southern China. As obvious by its name, it’s famous for its large head. When translated from Greek, its name suggests that it has a big head and a flat chest.

Big Headed Turtle Facts and information

The carapace is yellow or brown in coloration. The appearance of the carapace has no gender distinguishing features except for the shape. Males carapaces are more concave than females.

Little is known about its life span in the wild, but it can live up to 20 years in captivity. The big-headed turtle is not really an efficient swimmer but loves to climb rocks.

They are considered to be strong because of their climbing skills and strong jaws.

Big Headed Turtle Natural Habitat

Platysternen_megacephalum (Big Headed Turtle)

This turtles geographical array includes southern China, northern Vietnam, and northern Thailand to southern Burma. Their usual habitat includes the Rocky Mountains and small streams and lakes.

The streams or brooks where it lives have fast running water. They can sometimes be found dwelling in running water ways or streams, even though they aren’t great swimmers.

The big-headed turtle is considered rare, but it can be found in mountain streams and lakes in south Asian regions.

They prefer cool water, ranging from 10° C to 12° C (around 50° F). In addition, they also like to be in water where the floor is mainly made up of rocks.

Big Headed Turtle Diet

Big Headed Turtle being held

The big headed turtle is an omnivore by nature and will eat both plants and animals. Animal wise it likes both insects and fish.

These turtles can hunt in streams, but also like to scavenge around the rocks under the water. As with most omnivorous turtles, these also like worms, mollusks, crustaceans, and the like.

Mollusks such as crayfish, clams, and snails are a common part of their diet. By nature, they are considered to be nocturnal.

Big Headed TurtleBreeding

The nesting season is observed to last from May till August where the females will lay 10 to 15 eggs.

Each of the clutches laid contains 2 to 4 eggs. The eggs are long and elliptical in shape and have hard leathered shells.

Predators and Endangering conditions

Platysternon_megacephalum_(Big Headed Turtle)

The big headed turtles are an endangered and rare species. Almost 80% of the species are declared threatened by the IUCN. In order to combat extinction, several breeding programs have been initiated, but only a few have been successful.

Moreover, the information regarding its habitat and diet are confusing. Not enough research has been conducted due to its rarity. This may also be one of the many reasons contributing to the failure of breeding programs.

Big headed turtles know how to defend themselves and have rather strong jaws that should be dealt with care. When it senses an attack, the big headed turtle can’t conceal itself into its shell and rather protects itself by pulling its legs and tail into the shell and after that pulling down its head.

In its defensive position its jaw will be on the ground and just the hard top shows. If threatened the turtle may lash out with a quick snap.

Big Headed Turtle Overview Video


Pretty cool right?! What did you think? Have you seen one of these before? If so, where at? Let us know in the comments below!

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Thursday 19th of September 2019

I've had a Chinese Big Head turtle for over 30 years, don't know why so many have trouble raising them, mine is a part of the family!


Wednesday 5th of August 2020

Hi Becky. Nice to meet you. Im a herpetologist working in research and conservation. Im interested in your experience and data in captivity of the big headed turtle. Can you please contact me?. Thanks in advance. My email is [email protected]. Best wishes. Chris