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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Species Fact Profile: Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macrochelys temminckii)

Alligator Snapping Turtle
Macrochelys temminckii (Troost, 1835)

Range:  Rivers, Lakes, Swamps
Habitat:  Southeastern United States
Diet:  Fish, Frogs, Snakes, Aquatic Invertebrates, Turtles
Social Grouping: Solitary
Reproduction: Mates in spring, nest near water edge with 8-50 eggs, incubation 100-140 days, sex determined by incubation temperature (moderate temperatures result in males, extremes result in females), sexually mature at about 12 years of age
Lifespan:  45 Years (Wild), Up to 70 Years (Captivity)
Conservation Status: IUCN Vulnerable, CITES Appendix III

·         One of world’s largest freshwater turtles: up to 80cm long, up to 113kg weight; unverified reports of turtles much larger (up to 180kg) exist
·         Carapace is covered with three pronounced ridges (often has algae growing on it for camouflage); neck, head, and (extremely long) tail covered with tubercles
·         Spend almost all of lives in water (rarely bask), generally only nesting females come on to land
·        Actively forages by night but “sits and waits” by day; the tip of tongue has a small, pink projection resembling a worm, used to lure prey into the turtle’s mouth
·         Good sense of smell, can sense presence of smaller turtles buried in the mud
·         Adults have no natural predators; eggs are vulnerable to raccoons, skunks, and other nest raiders
·         Declined due to over-collection for meat (protection varies from state to state), also threatened by habitat loss and water pollution
·         Some US states outside of the species range prohibit the possession of alligator snapping turtles, fearing they could become an invasive species

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