Testudines Macrochelys temminckii -- Alligator 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: Wormlike lure on tongue; three prominent keels on upper shell; extra set of marginals (= supramarginals) separates true marginals 4-7 from pleural scutes.
Similar Species: Common snapping turtle.
Description: Largest freshwater turtle in North America (record is 80 cm CL). Wild individuals rarely reach 70 kg (155 lb), but captives may exceed 100 kg (220 lb). Carapace sculptured, dull black or brown, and strongly serrate posteriorly. Three carapacial keels formed by pyramid-shaped elevations of vertebral and pleural scutes. Plastron reduced and cross-shaped. Head cannot be retracted within shell. Chin, throat, and neck decked with long, pointed tubercles. Tail nearly as long as shell. Male larger than female. Male cloacal opening extends about twice as far beyond back edge of shell (mean = 19.9 cm).
Habitat: Chiefly riverine, but also oxbow lakes, cypress swamps, and canals.
Natural History: Wormlike projection on floor of mouth effectively lures fish within range of jaws. Eats almost anything it can catch, including other turtles. Its eggs and young are eaten by a variety of predators including raccoons, skunks, otters, and fish. Humans are chief predator of large adults. Large female captured in Union County in late June contained 32 spherical eggs, the largest of which was 35 mm diameter. Gaping jaws and strongly hooked beak of enraged adult are efficient deterrents to most potential predators.
Status: State endangered. Usually killed and eaten or displayed as oddity when found.