Alligator Snapping Turtle

Macrochelys temminckii

Summary 7

The alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii) is the largest freshwater turtle in the world based on weight. It is often associated with, but not closely related to, the common snapping turtle. They are the sole living member of the genus Macrochelys, while common snappers are in the genus Chelydra. The epithet temminckii is in honor of Dutch zoologist Coenraad Jacob Temminck.

Description 8

Amongst the largest freshwater turtles in the world, the alligator snapping turtle is a prehistoric-looking species with a reputation as the 'dinosaur of the turtle world' (2). Its camouflaged, ridged upper shell (carapace), large head, powerful, hooked, beak-like jaws, thick, scaled skin and oversized claws all contribute to this species' primitive look and set it apart from other freshwater turtles (4) (5). The three large, pronounced ridges running down the length of the dark brown to blackish shell somewhat resemble those on the back of an alligator, and earn the species its common name (2) (6). The shell also often has algae growing on it, which adds to the snapping turtles' camouflage (6). The tail is almost as long as the shell itself and, together with the chin, throat and neck, is coated with long, pointed tubercles (7) (8). The alligator snapping turtle has an unusual way of luring prey to it; the tongue contains a small, pink, worm-like projection (lure), which is grey at rest but suffused with blood when active, and wriggled to attract prey into the turtle's mouth (2).

Sources and Credits

  1. (c) Pandiyan V, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA), http://www.flickr.com/photos/13774211@N00/3240790906
  2. (c) Valter Jacinto, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA), http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7292/9579933527_f185ea86ec_o.jpg
  3. (c) Valter Jacinto, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA), http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3769/9582728148_119d126ab3_o.jpg
  4. Gary M. Stolz/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, no known copyright restrictions (public domain), https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/88/Alligator_snapping_turtle.jpg/460px-Alligator_snapping_turtle.jpg
  5. (c) bonitataylor, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC), uploaded by Bonita Taylor, http://www.inaturalist.org/photos/242687
  6. (c) dianaterryhibbitts, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC), uploaded by Diana-Terry Hibbitts
  7. (c) Wikipedia, some rights reserved (CC BY-SA), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macrochelys_temminckii
  8. (c) Wildscreen, some rights reserved (CC BY-NC-SA), http://eol.org/data_objects/2614227

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