size: 38-80 cm. (15-31 1/2 in.)
distribution: Iowa and southwestern Kentucky in the northern
Mississippi Valley and south to
southwest Georgia, northern Florida and west to eastern Texas.
habitat: Large rivers, lakes, and oxbows of the southeastern
coastal plain and Mississippi River
diet: snails, crayfish and other invertebrates, fish, water birds,
small mammals, and aquatic reptiles.
The Alligator Snapping Turtle is a giant among freshwater
turtles. It is the largest fresh-water turtle in North America
and one of the largest in the world. one specimen weighed in
at an awesome 316 pounds!
To catch a fish dinner, the Alligator Snapping Turtle uses
its own fishing lure. The turtle has a pink worm-like lure at
the end of its tongue which it can wiggle. When fishing, the
turtle settles on the bottom of its aquatic abode. The rough
plates of the snapping turtle shell are often covered with algae,
and it blends in with the river bottom. It opens its cavernous
mouth, wriggles its lure, and waits. Soon a small fish rushes
in to grab the "worm" and the turtle's jaws snap shut
like a trap.
Alligator Snapping Turtles can stay under water for a long
time. The snapping turtle can hold its breath for a long time.
It can extend its time underwater by absorbing dissolved oxygen
through the lining of its throat and cloaca.
The Alligator Snapping Turtle rarely leaves the water except
to lay its eggs. The female lays from 6 to nearly 50 round eggs,
each the size of a ping-pong ball. They take 3 to 4 months to
hatch. Larger females lay more eggs than smaller females.