Indochinese box turtle

Indochinese box turtle
Indochinese box turtle
Northern Vietnamese box turtle
Cuora galbinifrons galbinifrons
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Superfamily: Testudinoidea
Family: Geoemydidae
Subfamily: Geoemydinae
Genus: Cuora
Species: C. galbinifrons
Binomial name
Cuora galbinifrons
Bourret, 1939

Cuora galbinifrons hainanensis Cyclemys flavomarginata hainanensis Cuora hainanensis Cistoclemmys galbinifrons

The Indochinese box turtle(Cuora galbinifrons) or Vietnamese box turtle or Flowerback box turtle is a species of Asian box turtle from China (Hainan and Guangxi), northern and central Vietnam, Laos and possibly northeastern Cambodia.

The northern Vietnamese box turtle Cuora galbinifrons galbinifrons was described by Bourret in 1939, but it took nearly 40 years until the first specimens where imported to Europe and the United States. This subspecies occurs in extreme southern Guangxi Province, China, in northern Vietnam and probably northern Laos and on Hainan Island (China). The population from Hainan was once considered to represent a distinct species (Zhao, 1975) or at least subspecies (Iverson & Mccord, 1992), Cuora (galbinifrons) hainanensis (Li, 1958 : org desc. Cyclemys flavomarginata hainanensis). Li, 1958 was not aware of the description from Bourret (1939) of C. galbinifrons and thus believed to have something new of which he believed it is a subspecies of Cuora flavomarginata the only Cuora species known at this time with at least some similarities. According to some, specimens from Hainan do not always have a fully black plastron (always the case in mainland C.g. galbinifrons) but sometimes lighter parts. Furthermore, the carapace shows more red pigmentation and brown spots. Genetic and morphologic studies believe it to be a synonym of C.g. galbinifrons, however.

The central Vietnamese Flowerback box turtle (Cuora (galbinifrons) bourreti) occurs in central Vietnam and adjacent Laos and possibly in northeastern Cambodia. The most notable difference to the nominate race is the distinct plastral pattern, where only smaller black blotches (sometimes none at all) occur.

Described as a subspecies (Obst & Reimann, 1994) of Cuora galbinifrons, genetic studies (Stuart & Parham 2004) have shown it to be quite distinct, possibly to the extent of an own species, i.e., Cuora bourreti as is the case with Cuora picturata (Lehr et al. 1998), once also considered a subspecies of Cuora galbinifrons. However, ostelogic studies (Fritz et al. 2006) have shown that C.g. bourreti probably better remains as a subspecies of C. galbinifrons. This is also substantiated by the finding of intergradation zones in north-central Vietnam, where hybrid populations of C.g. galbinifrons and C.g. bourreti are known to exist (Fritz et al. 2003). The status of C. picturata is uncertain, while this is the morphologically and phenotypically most distinct variety, authors like Fritz & Havas (2006) treat it as subspecies of C. galbinifrons again. Herein it is treated as a separate but closely related species.

Specimens of at least the Northern and Central Vietnamese taxa hybridize—apparently in the wild—with Keeled Box Turtle males to produce the turtles once considered a separate species or subspecies: Cuora serrata.



  • Fritz, Uwe, Antje Petzold and Markus Auer. 2006. Osteology in the Cuora galbinifrons complex suggests conspecificity of C. bourreti and C. galbinifrons, with notes on shell osteology and phalangeal formulae within the Geoemydidae. Amphibia- Reptilia. 27 (2): 195-205.
  • Fritz, U., Ziegler, T., Herrmann, H.-W., Lehr, E., 2002. Intergradation between subspecies of Cuora galbinifrons Bourret, 1939 and Pyxidea mouhotii (Gray, 1862) in southern North Vietnam. Faun. Abh. Mus. Tierk. Dresden, 23: 59-74.
  • Obst, F.J., Reimann, M., 1994. Bemerkenswerte Variabilität bei Cuora galbinifrons Bourret, 1939, mit Beschreibung einer neuen geographischen Unterart: Cuora galbinifrons bourreti subsp. nov. Zool. Abh. Mus. Tierk. Dresden, 48: 125-138.
  • Stuart, B.L., Parham, J.F., 2004. Molecular phylogeny of the critically endangered Indochinese box turtle (Cuora galbinifrons). Mol. Phylogenet. Evol., 31: 164-177.

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