There are plenty of creatures that inhabit our planet that you wouldn’t want to encounter face-to-face. Whether it’s because they’re venomous, intimidatingly large, or prone to aggressive attacks, staying far away from them is advisable.
One creature that you may not have ever heard of—but that definitely fits into the category of “animals to avoid”—is the alligator snapping turtle. You probably knew snapping turtles were dangerous enough, but these guys are even more fearsome than you might have assumed.
Here are 10 amazing facts about alligator snapping turtles that will make you second-guess your next leisurely swim in a lake…
1. There are only three known species of alligator snapping turtles that exist in the world. For over a century, experts thought every one of them belonged to one single species, but in 2014, a study found that there are actually two more.
2. They are absolutely enormous. Can you imagine running into this guy while out for a swim in a lake? Males are usually larger than females, and they can weigh upwards of 175 pounds. There have even been a few cases of turtles that have clocked in at over 200 pounds. That’s a lot of turtle!
Florida Fish and Wildlife / Flickr
3. Alligator snapping turtles are meat-eaters and they usually dine on fish. However, they have been known to eat almost anything they can get their mouths around, including snakes, frogs, and even raccoons! In some instances, they’ve eaten other turtles and small alligators. That’s quite the appetite!
4. Many people might think that alligator snapping turtles are similar to regular snapping turtles, but they’re not. The biggest difference can be seen in their shell structure. Common snappers have a smooth rounded shell, but alligator snappers’ shells feature raised spikes, which look much more intimidating. In the picture below, the alligator snapping turtle is on the left.
5. Believe it or not, these turtles rarely travel on land at all. The females will briefly venture out of the water to lay eggs, but males typically spend their entire lives beneath the water’s surface. Both genders can hold their breath for nearly an hour at a time!
6. Like tortoises, alligator snapping turtles can live for a very long time. There have been reports of some turtles living upwards of 200 years, although the average lifespan is between 80 and 100 years. However, turtles that are kept in captivity have a shorter span of 20 to 70 years. That’s still a long time to be living in a swamp!
7. These guys are masters at camouflaging themselves, which is good for them—but bad for just about everything else nearby. Their shells are often covered in algae, which makes them look like rocks in the muddy waters they inhabit. Their pupils are also surrounded by excess skin so they’re hard to spot.
8. Luckily for these snapping turtles, they have no natural predators other than humans. Sometimes animals like snakes or raccoons will try to steal their eggs, but they are pretty much on top of the food chain. Unfortunately, their meat and shells sell for a high price on the exotic pet trade, and because of this, many of them are killed.
9. Alligator snapping turtles have some of the most powerful jaws of any reptile. They can crush fish, fruit, broom handles, and in some unfortunate instances, human fingers! Their bite is extremely quick, which can cause plenty of damage to anything they get a hold of.
10. The way these turtles hunt is ingenious, too. They lay motionless in the water and use the tip of their tongue, which has a red worm-like appendage on it, to lure fish close. Once their prey is within reach, they snap their jaws shut with astonishing speed.
Alligator snapping turtles are incredible creatures, although you wouldn’t want to find yourself swimming too close to one. If you enjoyed these facts, watch the video below for more fascinating information on one of the largest reptiles in the world!
These guys are amazing! If you ever find yourself spending time around lakes or swamps in the southeast region of the United States, keep an eye out for them. Even though “friendly” may not be the best word to describe them, they’re still fascinating to learn about.
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