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Species Bioprofile for the Hicatee (Dermatemys mawii)

Venetia Briggs-Gonzalez1,2,*, Sergio C. Gonzalez1, Dustin Smith3, Thomas R. Rainwater4, and Frank J. Mazzotti1,2

1University of Florida, Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, 3205 College Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33314, USA. 2Lamanai Field Research Center, Indian Church Village, Belize. 3North Carolina Zoo, 4401 Zoo Parkway, Asheboro, NC 27205, USA. 4Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center and Belle W. Baruch Institute of Coastal Ecology and Forest Science, Clemson University, PO Box 596, Georgetown, SC 29442, USA. *Corresponding author.

Caribbean Naturalist, Special Issue No. 2 (2019)

Dermatemys mawii (Central American River Turtle) is one of the 25 most endangered turtle species in the world and has been locally extirpated from much of its historical range in southern Mexico, lowland Belize, and northern Guatemala. As the sole living member of the primitive Dermatemydidae family, D. mawii, is unique and possesses some uncommon life-history traits, many of which are not fully understood. The cultural significance of this turtle, still important throughout its present-day range, dates back to pre-Classic Maya as a key ethno-herpetological icon in the culture and diet of Maya people in the Yucatan peninsula. Despite its protected status, the species continues to be exploited and has a dire future if current harvest rates continue. Relativley little is known of the biology of the species, but research and conservation efforts have increased in recent years. We provide a comprehensive summary of natural history findings on the species, including updated research and ongoing conservation efforts.

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