Testudines Chelydra serpentina -- Snapping Turtle
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Purple shade indicates vouchered specimens. Light blue (cyan)
shade indicates photographic records. Yellow shade indicates verified
sighting. Slanted hatch indicates pre-1980 records only
NOTE: Not all specimens upon which these maps are based have been verified.
Key Characters: Long neck; long tail with sawtooth projections on upper surface; carapace strongly serrate posteriorly, with three low keels (disappear with age) and one row of marginal scutes.
Similar Species: Alligator snapping turtle.
Subspecies: Common snapping turtle, C. s. serpentina.
Description: Large (up to 49 cm CL), aggressive, aquatic turtle with a relatively unpatterned carapace in cryptic shades of brown, olive, gray, or black. Head moderately large, beak moderately hooked, two chin barbels. Liberal covering of tubercles on back of neck. Plastron much reduced, cross-shaped, offering little protection. Legs muscular, feet broad with long claws and extensive webbing between toes. Male grows larger, has thicker tail base, and vent opening behind edge of carapace.
Habitat: Almost any body of water. Shallow, mud-bottomed backwaters and ponds with lush aquatic vegetation are especially favorable.
Natural History: Aggressive and menacing when encountered on land, but calm and retiring in water, where it seeks only escape when approached by humans; thus, it is little threat to swimmers. Although chiefly aquatic, it is often found away from water during spring. Eats a variety of invertebrates, vertebrates, and plants. Female lays one clutch of 20-40 spherical, leathery-shelled eggs (ca. 25-27 mm diameter) from mid-May to mid-June.
Status: Although heavily exploited for human food, populations appear not to be threatened at this time. Common statewide in habitats not used by fishermen.