Alligator Snapping Turtle

Alligator Snapping Turtle Macrochelys temminckii

Type of Animal:

Rivers, canals, lakes, swamps, streams, wetlands, bayous

Found in SE Kansas, E Oklahoma, E Texas, S & E Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, SE Iowa, W Illinois, W Kentucky, W Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, small parts of Georgia, & Florida panhandle. Once found in most of Florida. Introduced in Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany, & South Africa. 

Huge heavy head, long thick shell w/ 3 dorsal ridges of osteoderms, 3 distinct rows of spikes/raised plates on carapace (upper shell), solid gray, brown, black, or olive-green in color, often seen covered in algae, males much bigger than females, male’s cloaca extends beyond carapace edge while female’s nearer to plastron (bottom shell), male has thicker tail base, has worm-shaped appendage on tongue tip to lure fish & other prey, prehistoric look

Fish, amphibians, snakes, other turtles (including smaller members of own species), snails, small alligators, worms, clams, crayfish, aquatic plants, carrion, birds, rodents including larger species like nutrias & muskrats, opossums, raccoons, armadillos, leaves, wood, bark, stems, insects, nuts, seeds, roots, mussels

Status in Wild:

Breeding in zoos & aquariums. Reintroduction programs into areas of former range.


Additional Info:


Male-175-220 lbs
Female-50 lbs
Young-10 lbs

3 months

Life Span:
70-80 years in wild, up to 150 years in captivity

Body Length:
Male-2.65 ft
Female-2 ft

Tail Length:
Male-0.8 ft
Female-0.4 ft

Only predators of adults are large alligators. Juveniles/hatchlings preyed on by adults of own species/common snappers, smaller alligators, raccoons, large fish, birds, otters, & foxes.

Rarely leave water unless female nesting or individual decides to bask.

They’re ambush predators, using wormlike appendage on tongue to attract prey.

Threatened due to hunting for meat/shells, exotic animal trade, water pollution, & habitat loss.

Sexually mature by 11-13 years & keep growing throughout their lives.

They lay anything from 8-52 eggs in a clutch.

More active at night (nocturnal).

North America’s largest freshwater turtle & one of the largest in world.

Fun Fact(s):
They can stay submerged for up to 50 minutes-actually less than many other turtle species.

While these turtles not as aggressive as common snappers, they can do more damage w/ their sharp hooked beaks & stronger bite force.

Due to appearance, sometimes called “dinosaurs of the turtle world.”

They get their name from their appearance.

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