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Streams and Rivers are full of a diverse group of species. There are different assemblages of organisms depending on the conditions of the water. For instance, clear flowing water is a great place to find trout. Slow sluggish rivers would be ideal for alligator snapping turtles.

Species Profiles:

  • Alligator Snapping Turtle

Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macrochelys)

Distribution: Alligator Snapping turtles are found in the southeastern United States in riveres that flow into the Gulf of Mexico.

Related Species: There is one other snapping turtle found in the United States. This species is the Common Snapping Turtle. It is much smaller than the Alligator Snapping Turtle, its shell is smoother (there are less "spikes" on top), and it doesn't have the prey attracting worm-like tongue.

Life History:The female Alligator Snapping turtle lays one batch of eggs each year. She crawls out of the water (males never leave the water) and lay 25 to 30 eggs in a small hole that they excavate. Gestation time is 11 to 16 weeks. The sex of the turtle is determined by the temperature of incubation. Interestingly, most reptiles produce females at high egg temperatures, but both crocodilians and snapping turtles produce females when eggs are both cool and warm, and males when the temperature is intermediate (David Madge, D.Sc.).

Alligator Snapping turtles are already 2 to 3 inches when they hatch and look like the adults. It takes 11 to 13 years for alligator snapping turtles to reach sexual maturity. The average lifetime of an alligator snapping turtle is about 60 years, but researchers have found specimens that are 80 years old and some speculate they could reach 100 years.

Ecology: Alligator snapping turtles eat just about anything they can. Primarily they eat fish and invertebrates. They are sit and wait predators that ambush their prey. They lay on the muddy bottoms with their mouth open exposing a worm-like tongue that wiggles attrackting their prey. When the prey approaches they use their powerful jaws to

Interesting Facts: The Alligator Snapping Turtle is the largest freshwater turtle in the world. It has a specialized tounge adapted to attract potential prey. When they come to investigate the tounge (which resembles a worm), the turlte bites it in half.


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