Alligator snapping turtle

Alligator snapping turtle

By: Johan

The Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macrochelys temminckii) is the largest freshwater turtle species in North America. Despite being bigger than the other snapping turtles, it is actually less dangerous since it is less aggressive and thereby less prone to “snap”.

Alligator snapping turtle – habitat and range
The Alligator snapping turtle is highly adapted to an aquatic life style and suitable Alligator snapping turtle habitats will therefore contain some form of lake, slow moving stream, swamp or similar.

A majority of the wild Alligator snapping turtles lives in the United States, but occasional specimens have been found in southern Canada. There is also an entire population to be found in a swamp close to Glencoe in Ontario, Canada.  

In the United States, Alligator snapping turtles live in at least 14 different states. The have been confirmed in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida (in the northern parts), Georgia (in the western parts), Illinois, Iowa (in the south-easter parts), Kansas, Kentucky (in the western parts), Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee (in the western parts) and Texas (in the eastern parts).

Alligator snapping turtle – mouth
The Alligator snapping turtle use its mouth to lure fish close enough to be devoured. The inside of the mouth is camouflaged and the tip of the turtle’s tongue is equipped with a vermiform (worm-shaped) appendage. The Alligator snapping turtle will rest motionless in the water with its mouth open and hope for fish to notice the appendage. The appendage will not only look, but also move, is a worm like way in order to attract fish. When a fish have ventured into the mouth of the turtle, the Alligator snapping turtle will close its mouth extremely fast. In addition to being remarkably speedy, the Alligator snapping turtle also possesses astonishing bite strength.  

Alligator snapping turtle – colouration
The Alligator snapping turtles come in several different colour variations and can for instance sport solid brown, grey, black or olive green shades. The shell (carapace) is usually overgrown by algae. Around the eyes, you can see a radiating yellow pattern that keeps the Alligator snapping turtle more camouflaged by breaking up the outline of the eyes. 

Alligator snapping turtle – size and weight
The heaviest verified Alligator snapper turtle weighed 236 lb and lived in Brookfield Zoo, Chicago. A 403 lb Alligator snapping turtle have been reported from the Neosho River in Kansas, but this report has not been scientifically verified and dates back to 1937. The average adult Alligator snapping turtle will however be considerably smaller, typically around 175 lb. The average shell size for adults is 26 inches. Male turtles tend to grow bigger than female turtles.

Alligator snapping turtle – general anatomy
The Alligator snapping turtle have a distinguishing heavy head and a robust tail. It has been described as somewhat dinosaur like, since it features a dorsal ridge formed by big scales that make it look like a small version of some of the famous plated dinosaurs.

If you are unsure whether you are looking at an Alligator snapping turtle or any other snapping turtle species, pay close attention to the shell. On the Alligator snapping turtle, you will see three distinct ridges, while other snapper turtles have more smooth shells.

Snapping Turtle Articles:

Common Snapping Turtle
Snapping Turtle Care
Snapping Turtle Facts & Information


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