Caught and Coloured: Zoology Illustrations from Colonial Victoria


Being cold-blooded animals it is unsurprising that turtles are not well represented in cool-to-temperate southern Australia.

The Leathery Turtle is the only marine turtle that resides in the world's temperate seas. The animal depicted in the Prodromus was caught off Portland and brought to the lab for identification by Frederick McCoy.

Once known as tortoises, two of the species described in the Prodromus are more accurately defined as 'freshwater turtles'.

The Snake-necked Turtle lives in swamps, slow moving rivers and lagoons across much of Victoria. John James Wild depicted the species, neck extended, in an idealised Murray River habitat. His image of the animal's carapace reveals a mastery of colour lithography used to create an almost photo-realist effect, despite being achieved by purely mechanical means.

Wild also produced a similarly realistic depiction of the Macquarie Turtle, an animal restricted in Victoria to the Murray River drainage systems.

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