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Preparation of the World's Largest Freshwater Turtle

by J├╝rgen Fiebig and Marco Fischer

The stately male of the Yangtze giant soft-shell turtle (Rafetus swinhoei), who died in January 2016, had lived for many decades in a lake in the middle of the capital Hanoi. With a total length of about 2 meters and a weight of about 170 kilograms, it is the largest known specimen of its nearly extinct species.

    Nobody had ever prepared such a huge soft-shell turtle before; there was no experience in this matter. But we could rely on experience gained in the preparation of very different reptiles, including a Komodo dragon and some species of turtles, in the years before. A medium-sized soft-shelled turtle had also been satisfactorily prepared for the exhibition of the Berlin Museum a few years ago. It was soon also clear to us that for this turtle only the impregnation with polyethylene glycol (PEG) was the method of choice, especially because of the unique texture of the soft turtle carapace (top shell). The leathery epidermis of the shell and the enormous cartilaginous rear edge had to be kept as shrinkage-free as possible. The skin of the neck and extremities, which is enormously spongy when fresh, was very difficult to fix in an appropriate form.

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Categories: Articles - All, Articles - Home Page, Fall 2020 Issue 139Number of views: 1593

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