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Alligator snapping turtle
Macroclemys temminckii

Despite the alligator snapping turtle's appearance - spiked shell, beak-like jaw, thick, scaled tail, and long, sharp claws - it doesn't generally hunt down its prey. Instead, alligator snapping turtles hide in the dark mud with their mouths open to reveal a worm-like tongue in the hopes of tricking prey, such as fish, snakes, frogs, clams, and even other turtles.

These turtles also eat some aquatic plants. In the fall, they particularly enjoy acorns, which help them to bulk up before they go into the mud for winter hibernation.

These turtles are the largest freshwater turtles in North America. Some turtles reach 31 inches long and weigh up to 250 pounds. Alligator snapping turtles can live more than 100 years in the wild.

Alligator snappers are sedentary creatures, preferring to stay submerged under water for as long as 55 minutes at a time.

Reaching sexual maturity between 11 and 13 years of age, alligator snapping turtles generally mate in the spring and begin nesting in early summer. Females lay clutches of eight to 52 eggs at a time in nests just back from the water's edge. Incubation can last up to 110 days and the sex of the young turtles is determined by the nest temperature.

Alligator snapping turtle
© MSA 2005

Range: southern United States
Habitat: lakes, rivers
Range Map
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