Alligator Snapping Turtle Essay, Research Paper
Close your eyes if you re a turtle lover and try to image you self as one of the biggest freshwater snapping snapping turtles what would you do? Would you go on an eating frenzy or would you go for a swim? If you love turtles as much as I do then you will love to hear about one of the scarcest turtle alive to day. This turtle dates back to the dinosaur age and is the most feared among other turtles, it is the alligator snapping turtle.
The Alligator Snapping turtle is a unique reptile that resembles a prehistoric turtle-like dinosaur. Alligator Snapping Turtles live among the deep fresh waters of the southern United States north to Illinois. These turtles are very sedentary, spending most of the day motionless on the bottom of a riverbed, or in shallow water in lakes. By night, the Alligator Snapping turtle forages for food such as crayfish, mussels, snails, aquatic plants, and fish. This unique turtle has a distinguishing hooked jaw that is effective on mussels and crayfish. To catch little fish, the turtle remains on the bottom of a riverbed with its mouth open. A red worm-like tong within its mouth wiggles to attract fish. As soon as a fish enters within the boundaries of the mouth, the snapping jaw will grasp the fish and devour it. Alligator Snapping Turtles are the largest of all freshwater turtles [1,5].
In the wild, snapping turtles are found mainly in ponds, canals and streams. Although they prefer slow moving and shallow waters, snappers can be
found living on the edge of deeper lakes or rivers – like the ones around the Northern American Great Lakes. Contrary to their heavy appearance, the snapping turtles with their powerful leg muscles are very good swimmers, but unlike other turtles, they don’t do much swimming. If not moving around, they like to wait and hunt for fish or any other animal of prey from a chosen, well camouflaged place. Therefore, snappers preface muddy bottoms with some driftwood and a lot of vegetation – a perfect hideout. They have been also observed living in brackish waters [2,7,9].
Some of the physical characteristics of the Alligator Snapping Turtle are that it is one of the largest freshwater turtles in the world. These turtles can measure from 15 inches to over 30 inches in length. Their weight upon maturity can range from 35 to over 200 pounds. Males are typically larger than females. The tail on this turtle can be as long as its shell. The large shell is rough and three-keeled, meaning it has 3 pronounced ridges running from front to back. It has a large head with a hooked “beak” and very powerful jaws. The eyes are on the sides of their heads unlike the Common Snapping Turtle whose eyes are situated on the top of their heads. These turtles can be gray, brown, or black in color [3,4,6].
During reproduction, the male alligator snapping turtle mounts the back of the female. He grasps her shell with all four of his feet and inseminates her. It is unlikely that females reproduce more than once a year, and some females lay eggs on an alternate-year basis. The turtles mate in early spring in Florida and late spring in the Mississippi Valley. They nest about two months later in a nest approximately 50 meters from the shore. All nests are dug in the sand and clutch success is highly variable. A clutch may contain 8 to 52 eggs and incubation takes 100 to 140 days. Hatchlings, therefore, emerge in the fall. The incubation temperature determines the sex of the hatchling and the hatchlings look very much like adults. Sexual maturity occurs in 11 to 13 years [2,3,5].
Hopefully this paper will be of grate help to the people that decided to do a report on the alligator snapping turtle. I hope that who ever reads this will have a better under standing of how the alligator snapping turtles lives, breaths, and eats. When all is said and done I hope that both races will benefit from this report as we continue to benefit from each other and will strive to enhance our lives as we both continue to exist.