Turtle swims close to croc's jaws
This freshwater turtle seems headed for the jaws of defeat. Photo: ©Tony Neilson

Chow-down at the Musgrave Roadhouse

It is meal time and the croc’ and the freshwater turtle are on a collision course. (No Photoshop here.)

A bit like the mongoose and the cobra performance that has enthralled tourists to parts of Asia for centuries, this image is not quite what it seems.

The impressively armed freshwater crocodile and the Krefft’s river turtle (I think), are old mates. Along with other of their species, they occupy a billabong in the back corner of the Musgrave Roadhouse camping area on the main road to Cape York in Far North Queensland.

Collateral damage

Once a day they assemble near the water’s edge in anticipation of a free feed of raw meat from the roadhouse staff. Naturally, the croc gets the big chunks and the turtles pick up the scraps – and all surprisingly free of collateral damage, particularly as fish, birds, bats, reptiles and amphibians are part of the croc’s normal diet.

If the freshie’s ‘pearly whites’ are any indication, perhaps their symbiosis extends to the turtle providing a cleaning service.

Freshwater croc leaping out of water
Poisonous cane toads have affected Australia’s freshie population. Photo: ©Tony Neilson

Another coincidence

If I’m right with the turtle ID, there is another coincidence here. Gerard Krefft also named the freshie species (in 1873). He intended to commemorate the man who first reported it to him, Australian policeman and naturalist Robert Arthur Johnstone (1843-1905). But according to Wikipedia, Krefft made an error in writing the name, and for many years the species was known as C. johnsoni. Recent studies of Krefft’s papers have determined the correct spelling of the name, and much of the literature has been updated to the correct usage.

(Footnote: I camped again at Musgrave just a few nights ago and can report that the roadhouse holds the new record for outrageously expensive coffee – $5.80 for a long black to go. If you are contemplating a visit, also be warned: the dirt sections north of Laura are seriously rough in places. Worse still is the road into Lakefield NP from the Musgrave end.)

©Natural Images 2018

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©2018 TONY NEILSON All Rights Reserved. All images are protected by Australian copyright law and cannot be downloaded or reproduced without my permission. Please contact me.

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