Alligator snapping turtle

Alligator snapping turtle

The alligator snapping turtle lures prey into its mouth with the tip of its tongue, which resembles a juicy worm.

Alligator snapping turtle with skull

Alligator snapping turtle with skull

American dinosaur

Alligator snapping turtles (Macrochelys temminckii) are some of the largest and weirdest freshwater turtles in North America. They have large heads, thick tails and three ridges of scales on their backs. This makes them look similar to dinosaurs.

Big and tough

An alligator snapping turtle's vital statistics tell you that it's not a monster to mess with:

  • Alligator snapping turtles weigh about 80kg, or even more. That's about the same as an average UK man.
  • Their shells can be 65cm long or more, which means it's about the length of a tall man's arm.
  • Alligator snapping turtles can stay underwater for up to an hour.
  • No one knows how long they live in the wild, but alligator snapping turtles have lived to the old age of seventy in captivity.
Jaws of steel

The alligator snapping turtle has one of the most powerful bites in the natural world. But it's not just a powerful beast, it also uses sneaky tactics to trap its prey.

The inside of the turtle's mouth is camouflaged, so an unsuspecting insect or unwary snake could crawl inside and not realise the danger until it was too late. The turtle also has a worm-shaped tip to its tongue which it uses to lure prey inside, before snapping its mouth shut.

These turtles will happily snack on fish, insects, snakes and even other turtles. They're really not fussy.