Alligator snapping turtles (Macrochelys temminckii) are the largest freshwater turtles. During the day they are mainly ambush hunters, lying half-buried in mud on the river bed. While waiting for prey to approach, these turtles hold their large mouths open.

The turtle's tongue has a small projection on it, which becomes pink when engorged with blood. The turtle wiggles it as a lure to attract prey. Fish and other animals approach the lure, thinking they see a worm in the mud. However, they are heading for an almost certain death. As the prey swims into a turtle's mouth, it snaps shut. Small prey are swallowed whole, while the sharp, horny beak makes light work of larger prey, which may even be another species of turtle. The largest prey are held in the jaws, while the snapping turtle uses its forefeet to tear it apart. Male snapping turtles spend their whole lives in muddy rivers and lakes. Females, however, climb on to land in spring to lay eggs in holes dug into mud or sand.


ARKive photos and videos of the alligator snapping turtle

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