On Thursday, August 23rd, they’d arrived in the town of Acaponeta, Nayarit – a centuries old and history rich hub on the banks of a river of the same name. By noon, they’d checked into the Hotel Plaza – a relatively new building erected at the site of the historic Casona Hostería, where General Álvaro Obregón of Mexican Revolution fame once stayed.
The adventurous crew consisted of Walter Auffenberg and his son Walt Jr., Donald Tinkle, Louis Irwin, William “Billy” Milstead, Robert G. Webb, and Donald Patten. Milstead had secured a National Science Foundation grant to finance the expedition with the goal of locating specimens of the Spotted Box Turtle (Terrapene nelsoni) at the type locality in the Sierra Madre Occidental of Nayarit. Now just kilometers from the target, Milstead had fallen ill. Webb accompanied him at the hotel to process specimens, while the rest of the team departed for the field.
While that outing and the rest of the trip would fail to yield any Box Turtles, when the crew returned a short five hours later, they’d unknowingly secured a much bigger prize. Along Mexico’s Highway 15, in an otherwise unremarkable roadside wetland, the team had managed to capture three mud turtles. Two were quickly identified as the Mexican Mud Turtle (Kinosternon integrum), but the third specimen would go unidentified and virtually forgotten for the rest of the century.
Almost four decades later, following the description of a similar new species, the Jalisco Mud Turtle (Kinosternon chimalhuaca), Robert Webb published his observation from 1962 as a 217 kilometer range extension for K. chimalhuaca in 2001. He noted that the identification was a tentative one, and outlined multiple morphological differences from K. chimalhuaca reported in the description.
Fast forward to September of 2013. A young biologist named Jesus Loc Barragan would encounter a second turtle near the town of Rosa Morada in the state of Nayarit. While Jesus’ photos at the time depicted a unique looking turtle, the specimen went largely unnoticed by the larger herpetological community. It wouldn’t be until four years later, when Jesus encountered a 3rd specimen in neighboring Sinaloa, that a plan to finally describe the species was put into motion.
With assistance from biologist Marco Antonio Lopez Luna, and HERP.MX’s Chris Grunwald and Jacobo Reyes Velasco to secure and process additional specimens and comparative material, Jesus’ turtle was finally measured, sequenced, analyzed and described.
We’re please to join him in introducing the Cora Mud Turtle, Kinosternon cora, to the world. The species is named for the Cora people, the Native-Mexican ethnic group concentrated in the region surrounding Acaponeta, where Webb first discovered the species almost 60 years ago.