Weird Nature
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Alligator Snapping Turtles Are Reptilian Nightmares

Updated July 21, 2020 26.2k views12 items

If you’ve ever wondered what a dinosaur would look like in real life, the alligator snapping turtle is about as close as you’re going to get. Everything about them is prehistoric in the most terrifying way. These incredible turtles are known for their vicious bite and primordial appearance, and they certainly live up to their reputation. Although they are not known to attack humans unprovoked, they can really mess up the day of anyone who is foolish enough to get too close. But it's okay, because after learning some facts about this mini-Godzilla, you'll be sure to think twice before messing with one in the wild.

Super strong snapping turtles may be lurking in the waterways of the southeastern United States, but they actually have more to fear from us than we do from them. Their numbers are declining thanks to human activity, including poaching and habitat loss. While they are not considered to be an endangered species on the federal level, states like Texas have put laws in place to help protect these remarkable river monsters from potentially catastrophic population loss.

  • Their Bite Can Sever Fingers And Snap Broomsticks

    Rule #1 of handling an alligator snapping turtle: keep your hand out of its mouth. This should be obvious, but there have been plenty of cases reported of people losing their fingers while mishandling these monsters. Their beak is incredibly powerful, so they must be held from directly behind their head in order to avoid a bite. According to the USGS, an alligator snapping turtle's bite is powerful enough to snap a broomstick in half and can cleanly sever off a human finger, bone and all. 

  • They Use Their Worm-Like Tongues To Attract Prey

    These turtles could almost certainly shred through their prey like violent brutes, but they tend to take a more low-key approach to hunting. Alligator snapping turtles hunt by waiting, perfectly still, at the bottom of a creek or river with their mouth wide open. Inside, their pink, worm-like tongue wriggles and writhes, acting as a lure to attract fish. Fish will often swim directly into the turtle's mouth, resulting in a life-ending snap of its jaws. This style of hunting is highly efficient went it comes to conserving energy and maximizing food intake.

  • They Are The Biggest Freshwater Turtles On Earth

    Photo: Gary M. Stolz/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    The alligator snapping turtle certainly earned its name. These things are huge, and they are the largest turtles found in any freshwater environment. Their shells alone can grow to be over two feet wide, and the largest recorded snapper weighed over 250 pounds. The only turtles bigger than these are sea turtles, but they are nowhere near as intimidating.

  • They Can Hold Their Breath For Up To 50 Minutes

    Like most aquatic animals, alligator snapping turtles can hold their breath for an incredibly long time. And since they like to sit completely still in the muddy sediment of river bottoms for up to an hour, it is a skill that comes in handy when capturing their prey. As such, they spend nearly their entire lives underwater, only surfacing to take the occasional breath. And because of how long they can remain perfectly still underwater, it is easy for algae to take root and start growing on their shells - the perfect camouflage.