Alligator snapping turtle
The prehistoric-looking alligator snapping turtle is the largest freshwater turtle in North America and among the largest in the world. With its spiked shell, powerful jaws, and thick, scaled tail, this species is often referred to as the "dinosaur of the turtle world."
Scientific name: Macrochelys temminckii
Family Classification: Chelydridae
Common names: Alligator Snapping Turtle
IUCN Red List Category: Vulnerable (1)
Year Assessed: 1996 (Needs updating) (1)
Range Description: The Alligator snapping turtle is endemic to the US occurring in rivers that drain into the Gulf of Mexico. (1)
Countries: United States (1)
Habitat: Some natural habitat has been drained and replaced by agriculture in recent years, however, actual habitat loss, in terms of loss of rivers and their banks, may be small. The turtle has been found in reservoirs throughout their range and dyking of rivers to create winter waterfowl refuges has increased potential habitat in Arkansas and the lower Mississippi Valley and may offset some of the degraded habitat. (1)
Description: Alligator snapping turtles are the largest freshwater turtles. Fully grown they can weigh up to 80 kg (176 lb). They spend most of their time in the water, where they are so motionless that algae may cover their backs and make the turtles almost invisible to their prey.
Maximum adult weight: 80 kg (176 lb)
Diet and predation: The alligator snapping turtle is both a scavenger and an active hunter. During the day, it usually lies quietly in the water and opens its jaw to reveal a small pink worm-like lure in the back of its mouth. The lure attracts fish, and when the fish enter the jaws, they are either swallowed whole or impaled on the sharp tips of the upper and lower jaws. Alligator snapping turtles feed on a variety of fish, and also frogs, snakes, snails, worms, clams, crayfish, aquatic plants and even other turtles.
Conservation status: The alligator snapping turtle is primarily vulnerable to habitat loss and hunting. Soup made from alligator snapping turtle meat is considered by some to be a delicacy.
1. IUCN Red List (February, 2011) http://www.iucnredlist.org
Alligator Snapping Turtle Profile