Kinosternon sonoriense 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Reptilia Testudines Kinosternidae

Scientific Name: Kinosternon sonoriense LeConte, 1854
Infra-specific Taxa Assessed:
Common Name(s):
English Sonoyta Mud Turtle
Taxonomic Notes: Two subspecies are universally recognised: Kinosternon sonoriense sonoriense LeConte, 1854, and K. sonoriense longifemorale Iverson, 1981.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Near Threatened ver 3.1
Year Published: 2011
Date Assessed: 2011-03-21
Assessor(s): van Dijk, P.P.
Reviewer(s): Horne, B.D., Mittermeier, R.A., Philippen, H.-D., Quinn, H.R., Rhodin, A.G.J. & Shaffer, H.B.
Contributor(s): Congdon, J. & Riedle, J.D.
Considering the ability of Kinosternon sonoriense to retain good populations in adverse environmental conditions, widespread reproduction and recruitment, at least locally and temporarily exceptionally high population densities, absence of targeted take, and confirmed occurrence in several protected areas, the species overall does not meet the criteria for a threatened category. However, certain populations have disappeared (e.g., Colorado River), while the impacts of widespread groundwater extraction and climate change represent future threats to other populations and possibly the overall species, and monitoring of key populations is warranted.

The Sonoyta Mud Turtle (subspecies longifemorale), restricted to a small and heavily impacted area, likely qualifies in one of the Threatened categories and warrants separate evaluation.

Kinosternon sonoriense was listed as Vulnerable in the 1996 Red List; with increasing research and survey efforts it was subsequently found to be more widespread and locally abundant than previously considered, making retention at VU inappropriate.It is therefore listed as Near Threatened.

Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Kinosternon sonoriense occurs in hill areas of southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, and Lower Colorado basin of USA and Mexico, and endorrheic and Baja California drainages of Sonora and Chihuahua (Iverson 1992).

Kinosternon sonoriense sonoriense: Lower Colorado basin of southwestern New Mexico, southern Arizona, and possibly extreme southeastern California, USA, as well as the Magdalena, Sonora, upper Yaquia and upper Fuerte [Urique] of Sonora and endorrheic basins of western Chihuahua, Mexico (Iverson 1992, Ernst and Lovich 2009).

Kinosternon sonoriense longifemorale: Endemic to the Rio Sonoyta basin on the border of Arizona (USA) and Sonora (Mexico) (Iverson 1992).

Countries occurrence:
Mexico (Chihuahua, Sonora); United States (Arizona, California - Regionally Extinct, New Mexico)
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]


Recorded population densities in suitable habitat are as high as 750 to 3,000 animals per hectare (Hulse 1982, Stone 2001). A large stable population persisted in a canyon that fell completely dry in some years (Stone, 2001).

The species is rated as Apparently Secure in Arizona, Vulnerable in New Mexico, introduced in Nevada and Possibly Extirpated in California (NatureServe, 2004). No population data are available concerning Mexican populations.

Population of the ssp. longifemorale is less abundant; the population at Quitobaquito Oasis (in Organ Pipe Cactus NM) has declined from several hundred in the late 1950s to about 100 in the early 1980s; habitat improvements increased the population to about 130 turtles in the early 1990s, but indications are that the oasis has since declined in water inflow. The Quitobaquito population has continued to remain stable, and continued maintenance and improvements are being made to the pond. The mudturtle population in the Rio Sonoyta just across the US-MX border persists in semi-permanent pools resulting from artificial dams and waste water effluent in the town of Sonoyta. Turtles also persist within seasonal pools along the Rio Sonoyta further west in the Reserva de la Biosfera El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar. There is a possibly introduced population found farther south in the city of Quitovac (Rosen et al. 2010).

Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Sonora Mud Turtles preferentially inhabit permanent waterbodies such as streams, creeks, ditches, ponds, springs, waterholes and stock ponds (cattle drinking basins), often in woodland, but also in Sonoran Desert vegetation. Preferred waterbodies contain clear water with rocky, gravelly or sandy bottom and aquatic vegetation. Ephemeral waters and terrestrial habitats are only occasionally used. (van Loben Sels et al. 1997, Ernst and Lovich 2009). Animals move out of drying puddles onto land (not into permanent waterbodies) (Ligon and Stone 2003). Occurs up to 2,042 m altitude (Ernst et al. 1994).

Kinosternon sonoriense are preferentially carnivorous, including plant matter in their diet only when the availability of animal food, such as benthic insects, snails, small crustaceans and carrion, is limited (Ernst and Lovich 2009).

Females may reach 17.5 cm carapace length (CL), males no more than 15.5 cm CL  Females may reach maturity at five to nine years of age, at CL 9.3-10.6 cm or more (Hulse 1982, Rosen 1987, in Ernst and Lovich 2009, van Loben Sels et al. 1997). Males mature at 7.6-9.8 cm CL and 4-8 years of age (Hulse 1982, Rosen and Lowe 1996, in Ernst and Lovich 2009). Several females produce at least two clutches per year. Clutch size averages 6.7 eggs (range 2-11). (van Loben Sels et al. 1997) Hatchlings measure 25-27 mm CL (range 19-34 mm) at 1.8-3.3 grams (review by Ernst and Lovich 2009). A generation time of 12 years and a net replacement rate of 1.6 have been calculated (Rosen and Lowe 1996, in Ernst and Lovich 2009). Longevity may exceed 40 years in the wild.

Systems:Terrestrial; Freshwater
Generation Length (years):12
Congregatory:Congregatory (and dispersive)

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: Kinosternon sonoriense is in the pet trade in insignificant numbers, and has not been reported to be used for human consumption.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Irrigation, water extraction and water diversion projects have a significant impact on the species’ habitat through affecting groundwater and surface water availability as well as affecting riparian vegetation. Hydrological stresses may be exacerbated by changes in prevailing climatic conditions.

Introduced bullfrogs and freshwater crayfish represent additional, alien predators on juveniles (Ernst et al. 1994, NatureServe 2004)

Water diversion, groundwater pumping and habitat degradation are particularly severe in the range of the Sonoyta Mud Turtle (ssp. longifemorale). Conservation efforts  here are complicated by narcotics smuggling and human trafficking in the area.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: In the United States, Kinosternon sonoriense is restricted from exploitation in Arizona through area restrictions where collection is not permitted (including all protected areas), New Mexico has an annual bag limit of five K. sonoriense, while California has no restrictions of collection of the species. Turtles in general are protected from exploitation under Mexican wildlife and natural resource legislation; implementation is uneven.

The species inhabits a number of protected areas in each country of occurrence, including the Catalina Mountains, Montezuma’s Well, and Organ Pipe Cactus NM in Arizona. Nevertheless, these areas’ protected status does not necessarily safeguard the habitat and species from groundwater loss and climatic change impacts.

Currently the Arizona Game and Fish Department, National Park Service, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Tucson, and the Phoenix Zoo have been working together to maintain an assurance colony of Sonoyta Mud Turtles and improve habitat at Quitobaquito Oasis (Riedle et al. 2009).

Range-wide population assessments, further natural history studies, and confirmation of the occurrence of secure populations in protected areas in Mexico would be desirable. Intensive efforts will be needed to safeguard and restore remaining habitat of the Sonoyta Mud Turtle, both at the only site in the United States (State and partner efforts in place and ongoing) and in the Rio Sonoyta in Mexico (cross-border partnership public-NGO developing in recent years).

Errata [top]

Errata reason: An errata assessment is required to generate a revised PDF without the range map which had been included in error; no range map was available when this assessment was originally published.

Citation: van Dijk, P.P. 2011. Kinosternon sonoriense (errata version published in 2016). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2011: e.T11011A97382186. . Downloaded on 21 September 2018.
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