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Scientific Name
Macrochelys temminckii

Conservation Status
Vulnerable (IUCN Red List)

Where to see them
World of Reptiles

Fun Facts

  • Alligator snapping turtles are fully aquatic, rarely leaving the water to bask.
  • The turtles’ uniquely adapted tongues are wormlike appendages used to lure fish and other aquatic wildlife.
  • Alligator snapping turtles get their name from the keels on their shells that look like ridges on an alligator’s back.

Alligator snapping turtle

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Size
Alligator snapping turtles are the world’s largest freshwater turtle species. Shells can exceed 30 inches in length, and males can weigh up to 200 pounds.

Range
Southeastern U.S., extending along the Mississippi River as far north as Iowa

Habitat
Lakes, swamps, streams and slow-moving muddy bottom rivers

Lifestyle
Alligator snapping turtles are “sit-and-wait” predators, lurking at the water’s bottom and waiting for unsuspecting prey. Fish and other smaller creatures approaching closely enough to investigate the “worm” in the snapping turtle’s mouth are immediately crushed by the powerful jaws and swallowed.

Food
Alligator snapping turtles feed on aquatic animals, including fish, mussels and smaller reptiles.

Life Cycle
Females typically lay around 10 to 45 eggs once a year in spring. The incubation temperature of the egg determines the sex of the hatchlings. Cooler temperatures produce males; higher temperatures, females. Hatchlings dig out of the nest after about 90 days. Alligator snapping turtles provide no parental protection or care for their nests or their offspring.

Some of My Neighbors (IN THE WILD)
Fish, frogs, snakes, otters

Population Status & Threats
Alligator snapping turtle eggs and hatchlings risk predation by raccoons and birds. Adults have no natural enemies besides humans, which exploit the turtles for meat.