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Alligator snapping turtle

Macrochelys temminckii

Today's Research for Tomorrow's Oceans

Species Type:


Common Name(s):

Alligator snapping turtle


Alligator snapping turtles are the largest freshwater turtle in North America. They can grow to be 22-29 inches (55.9-73.3 centimeters) long and weigh anywhere from 62-249 pounds (28.1-112.9 kilograms), depending on age and sex.


The alligator snapping turtle eats an almost entirely carnivorous diet. Snails, crabs, mussels, fish, crayfish, smaller turtles, birds and snake are all on the menu for this snapping turtle. As opportunistic feeders, they'll sometimes eat acorns, or other available vegetation.

Range & Habitat:

Alligator snapping turtles live in fresh and brackish water ecosystems. They can be found in swamps, rivers, lakes, and estuaries.


Uniquely, alligator snapping turtles are the only species of turtle to have eyes positioned on the side of their head. This widens their peripheral vision allowing them to spot prey with ease. Moreover, their tongue has a worm-like appendage perfect for luring in prey. The turtle hides under the sand of a fresh or brackish waterway, pokes his tongue out and waits for a fish to fall for his trap (NWF). Alligator snapping turtles are solitary creatures enjoying little to no socialization amongst each other. They don’t provide any structure or care after birthing their offspring. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, these turtles are considered Vulnerable.