Two subspecies of the turtle Cuora amboinensis have been reported from the Philippine Islands, C. a. amboinensis and C. a. kamaroma, distinguished primarily by their carapace morphology, and secondarily by their plastron patterns. We assessed the utility of using shell and postorbital-stripe morphology instead of plastron patterns to distinguish these putative taxa. Adult C. amboinensis from the Philippines were examined to determine the extent of occurrence of C. a. kamaroma on the islands. Several morphological carapace characters and one based on the postorbital stripe were found to differ significantly between the subspecies C. a. amboinensis and C. a. kamaroma, and were used to assign turtles to subspecies. Use of these characters often resulted in conflicting subspecific identifications for those previously assigned by their plastron patterns to C. a. kamaroma. This poses important questions. Using the carapace and postorbital-stripe characters, 95.2% of the turtles in the mainland chain of islands were identified as C. a. amboinensis, and only 4.8% as C. a. kamaroma. Surprisingly, most of those assigned to C. a. kamaroma were from the northern islands of Babuyan and Luzon, not from the southern main chain island populations closest to the likely geographic area of invasion by that subspecies. This may be due to the common practice of importation of C. a. kamaroma into these northern islands, especially Luzon, for food. Turtles with kamaroma-like or C. a. amboinensis ?? C. a. kamaroma plastron patterns have been reported from the Sulu Archipelago and Busuanga/Palawan chain, and those specimens we examined from those islands confirmed this. The questions of whether or not C. a. kamaroma actually occurs in the Philippines and, if so, what is its island distribution, cannot be answered at this time. All specimens previously identified as C. a. kamaroma by their plastron-patterns should be re-evaluated, using the significant carapace and postorbital-stripe characters identified by Rummler & Fritz (1991) and in this paper. Philippine Cuora amboinensis cannot be identified to subspecies by their plastron patterns alone. ?? Biological Society of Washington.
Additional Publication Details
Does the "kamaroma"-plastron pattern morph occur in both Philippine subspecies of the turtle Cuora amboinensis?