Matamata Turtle

Matamata Turtle Chelus fimbriata

Type of Animal:

Slow-moving streams, stagnant pools, marshes, swamps, rivers, wetlands, river tributaries, lakes, ponds, shallow areas on bottoms of calm slow-moving water

N South America & Trinidad

Large triangular flattened leaflike head, horn structure on long snorkel-like snout, brown/blackish oblong carapace (upper shell), plastron (lower shell) reduced narrow hingeless shortened towards front, deeply notched at rear w/ narrow bridges, cream to yellow to brown plastron/bridges, grayish-brown head/neck/tail/limbs, wide long neck, tan/brown throat, males have longer thicker tails & more concave plastrons, juveniles have dark brown to mahogany carapaces/necks, bright salmon plastrons, & reddish-brown throat, babies pale pink w/ black/green speckles

Fish, invertebrates, amphibians, birds, small mammals

Status in Wild:

Breeding in zoos, aquariums, wildlife centers, herpetoculture, & aquaculture


Additional Info:

Young: Hatchling
Group: Solitary
Male: 27 lbs
Female: 33 lbs
Young: 2.11 oz

6.5 months 

Life Span:
30-75 years

Body Length:
Male: 1.02-1.37 ft
Female: 1.2-1.72 ft
Young: 3.14 in

Tail Length:
Male: Longer/Thicker
Female: Shorter/Thinner

Main predators of adults are crocodilians, large snakes, dogs, & felids. Many snakes, birds, & rodents eat young/eggs.
Leaflike snout & algae on body come in handy since they’re ambush predators. When prey swims by, they stick head out & open mouth as wide as possible, sucking prey into mouth. Camouflage also comes in handy for avoiding predators.
Only leave the water when females lay eggs. Males never leave water.
Females lay 12-28 eggs per clutch.
They’re very shy & don’t often like being handled.
Can be active anytime of day due to being very lazy inactive animals.
Before mating, males repeatedly extend head towards females while opening/closing mouth.
While vision is poor, they have excellent senses of hearing/touch.

Fun Fact(s):
Due to camouflage/hunting strategy, they can catch prey in a split-second.
Occasionally kept as pets due to odd appearance.
Though there’s rural New Zealand town named Matamata which was a shooting location for Lord of the Rings movies, they’re not from there, instead being from South America. Matamata Spanish for “kill kill.”
While almost completely aquatic, they’re actually poor swimmers, instead slowly walking along bottom.
Due to unattractive appearance, some men in South America refer to unattractive women as “mata matas.”

1 thought on “Matamata Turtle


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