Many of nature’s deadliest creatures are obviously threatening just by their appearance. After all, you don’t have to look at a lion’s sharp teeth and claws for too long to realize that it has the potential to cause some serious damage! Other creatures, however, pose more subtle threats, and these animals can be just as dangerous.
There’s one animal that spends most of its time blending into its surroundings, barely moving and only occasionally breathing. But once unsuspecting prey passes by, this bizarre creature strikes with deadly force. At first glance, you’d never believe the creature you’re looking at is really something to be feared!
The South American mata mata turtle may not appear dangerous at first, but any fish will tell you otherwise. These reptiles have a tremendously fast way of catching prey, and they do it with extreme efficiency.
The key to a mata mata turtle’s hunting skills is in its camouflage. At first glance, you might think you were staring at a brown leaf—and that’s exactly what this critter wants its prey to think.
This turtle will lie hidden among leaves and other debris on the floor of shallow streams and ponds, where it remains completely still. That is, until a group of unsuspecting fish slowly make their way over…
As you can see, this mata mata turtle is perched up like a leaf, and he’s spotted a small school of blue fish. They’re completely unaware that only a foot away is a deadly predator who’s hungry for his next meal!
The turtle has to remain completely motionless or else the fish will immediately realize they’re all in danger. His neck is extended as far as possible so he can catch a fish—even if it’s swimming several inches away from his shell.
One of the blue fish swims precisely within the mata mata turtle’s reach. Patience is the key to his game. If he grows too impatient and attempts a hasty attack, he might miss out on his meal. Wait for it…
Wow! Look at how fast he snatches that fish. The speed at which mata mata turtles attack is incredible; if you even blink for a split second, you’ll miss it. It’s no wonder these guys are considered one the best hunters.
Here’s a much larger mata mata turtle slowly hunting his prey. He looks less like a leaf than the previous turtle, but his coloring still helps him. His ability to remain motionless is second to none…
Once he sets his eyes on his meal, within a split second it’s gone. It actually happens so quickly that the other fish swimming around him don’t even notice, which gives him the opportunity to enjoy a second course!
Not only do mata mata turtles look like leaves, but they also can grow moss on their shells, which gives even more of an illusion they’re part of the natural environment. This also helps immensely when it comes to catching prey.
Many people think these turtles live around New Zealand because Matamata is a rural New Zealand town, but they actually live on the complete opposite side of the world in South America’s Amazon and Orinoco basins.
You can tell where the turtles live by the coloring and shape of their shells. If a turtle has a more rectangular shell and dark markings on its head and neck, it’s from the Amazon. Turtles with oval shells and a pale coloring are Orinoco inhabitants.
Although many of the turtles tend to be smaller in size, they can grow to be pretty large. Just take a look at this guy! Can you imagine waking up and seeing something this size wading in your pool?
Unlike most other species of turtles, mata matas cannot retract their heads back into their shells. Instead, they curl their necks around and tuck them into the sides, but they’re still quite visible.
Mata mata turtles breathe through their thin snorkel-like noses. They’re able to extend their necks incredibly far out from their body so they can almost fully remain in the water while still breathing the air above.
The words “mata mata” translate to “kill kill” in Spanish, which makes sense because of their intense and aggressive way of killing prey. No one wants to come across any type of creature whose name translates to “kill!”
Mata matas are notoriously sedentary, which is unlike many other species of turtles. These reptiles also rarely leave the body of water they live in. In fact, mata mata turtles basically only travel to land to lay their eggs.
The sedentary lifestyle they lead gives them the ability to thrive when kept in small aquariums because they don’t need much space to move around. Unlike many animals, they’re perfectly happy in closed quarters!
Mata matas’ unique looks make them very intriguing display animals. However, if you’re looking to purchase one, they can be very pricey. Still, you’ll have a new buddy for about 40 to 75 years, so plan accordingly!
What an incredible species! Even though they look startling, mata mata turtles are harmless to humans. Check out the footage below of one of these unusual reptiles feasting on some guppies in a tank!
You’d never expect a turtle, of all creatures, to be able to strike like that! It’s almost snake-like, but far more subtle…
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