5 Fun Facts You Never Knew About Alligator Snapping Turtles

Do you ever wish you could just lay around and wait for dinner to find its way into your mouth? Are you fond of animals that resemble dinosaurs? Then you definitely need to learn about the alligator snapping turtle! Here are 5 fun facts you never knew about the alligator snapping turtle.

#1 – It’s the largest freshwater turtle in North America

image source: James St. John via flickr

With an average male weight of 175 pounds, the alligator snapping turtle is the largest freshwater turtle in North America and one of the heaviest freshwater turtle species in the world. Males have an average shell length of 26” and can weigh over 200 pounds. Females are much smaller, rarely weighing more than 50 pounds.

#2 – They’re native to the southeast United States

image source: Christopher Evans via flickr

Their range extends from northern Florida to eastern Texas and as far north as Iowa. They rarely come out of the water except when the females come aground to lay their eggs. They live in river systems, lakes, and wetlands. They can hold their breath for 50 minutes and spend so much time motionless under the water that algae grows on their shells.

#3 – Alligator snapping turtles have a “lure” on their tongue

image source: Eden, Janine and Jim via flickr

They have a projection on their tongue that resembles a worm. The turtle will lie motionless with its mouth open and wiggle the “lure” to attract prey. When an unsuspecting fish comes to check out the “worm,” the turtle snaps its jaws shut. Their powerful jaws can bite clear through bone!

#4 – They’re often called the “dinosaur of the turtle world”

image source: hspauldi via flickr

It gets this name because of its primitive-looking face, spiked shell, beak-like jaw, and scaly tail. Unlike other snapping turtle species, the alligator snapping turtle has eyes on the sides of its head.

#5 – Adults have no natural predators (besides humans)

Eggs and juveniles are eaten by fish, raccoons, and birds, but once they reach adult size, they’re safe from everything but humans. Humans capture them to eat their meat and use their shells. They’re also sold into the exotic animal trade. Unregulated harvesting and habitat loss have resulted in the species becoming threatened, but many states in their range are now protecting them.
(H/T: National Geographic, National Wildlife Federation)