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The African helmeted turtle or Marsh terrapin (Pelomedusa subrufa), is typically a rather small turtle with most individuals being less than 87.9 cm in carapace length, but one has been recorded with a carapace length of 132.5 cm. it has a black or brown carapace (shell). The tops of the tail and limbs are a grayish brown, while the underside is yellowish. The male turtle is distinguished by its long, thick tail. Females tend to have a shorter tail and a broader carapace. Hatchlings have a shell size of about 1 and 1/4 inches in length, and are olive to black in color. It also has two small tubercles under the chin and musk glands in the sides of the carapace. The African helmeted turtle doesn't have a hinged plastron (lower shell). All the other species in the family Pelomedusidae however have this feature which they can, using muscles, close to cover their head and front limbs.
The range of Pelomedusa subrufa spreads over a large portion of Africa. They are semi-aquatic animals, living in rivers, lakes, and marshes, and they also like rain pools and places that are fertilized.
The African helmeted turtle is omnivorous and will eat almost anything. Some of the main items in its diet are insects, small crustaceans, fish, earthworms, and snails. They may also feed on carrion. The fine claws on its feet help it tear its prey apart. Groups of these turtles have been observed capturing and drowning doves when they come to drink.