Alligator Snapping Turtle


 alligatorSnappingTurtle.jpg

 

Common Name
Alligator Snapping Turtle
Category
Reptiles
ScientificName
Macroclemys temminckii
Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Reptilia
Order
Testudines
Family
Chelydridae
Genus
Macrochelys
Species
temminckii
SubSpecies

 

Description
Dark brown shell, or carapace, with 3 distinctive pointy ridges; skin is a grayish color; large head; massive jaws; hooked beak; long rough tail; webbed feet
Size
13 – 30 inch (33 – 76 cm) shell length; may weigh up to 170 pounds (77 kg) or more
Ecological Role
This species usually walks along muddy river or lake bottoms hunting for food instead of swimming like other turtles. Raccoons, opossums, skunks, snakes, and red and gray foxes are natural predators of turtle eggs.
Fun Facts
  • The current record for a wild alligator snapping turtle is 316 pounds (143 kg).
  • The alligator snapping turtle lies motionless at the bottom of a river, or a lake, with its mouth open waiting for its prey to swim in. It has a worm-like apparatus on its tongue that wiggles back and forth to lure fish into their powerful jaws. The alligator snapping turtle lives its entire life in the water. The female emerges long enough to lay her eggs on a nearby bank. The full life span of the alligator snapping turtle is not fully known due to its secretive nature, however, captive turtles have been documented at 46 – 50 years old.
  • The alligator snapping turtle is easily exploited by man for food, decoration, and pet propagation. This turtle population is slow to regenerate because they do not reach sexual maturity until they are 12 – 13 years old.
Food
Fish, frogs, snakes, animal remains (carrion), occasionally plants
Cover
 
Nest
Female excavates nest on riverbank; as with other turtles, temperature of nest determines sex
Breeding
Mating occurs under water in early spring.
Eggs
Small white, leathery shells; up to 20 eggs per clutch; hatch in 70 – 120 days
Habitat
Deep rivers, sloughs, canals, and large bodies of water
Kentucky Distribution
Mainly western Kentucky in large river systems
Life Cycle
 
Life Span
 
Life Stage
 
Reproduction
 
Seasonal Changes
This species is not active in the winter months. It usually hibernates in mud banks or log jams until early spring.
Spawning
 
Status
Imperiled; special concern
Uses
 
Voice
 
Young
Dig out after hatching; are independent at birth
What We Can Do
Protect undisturbed and undeveloped riverbanks and shorelines to encourage nesting and successful hatching. Protection and enforced limit regulations on turtle harvests for personal and commercial use need to be adopted to ensure the survival of the alligator snapping turtle. Educate people of the negative effects that habitat degradation, pollution, and unregulated harvest has on this and many other aquatic species.
Host
 
Diagnosis and Control
 
Interesting Facts
 
Contributed By
 
Website
http://www.nhptv.org/natureworks/