In Florida, Wildlife conservationists captured three Suwannee alligator snapping turtles last week that looks like they came out straight from a movie about monsters. One of these three turtles caught weighs 100 pounds, the largest of its kind ever recorded.
According to the FWC Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Facebook page, these massive reptiles, once known as Macrochelys suwanniensis, are new species of turtles first spotted in 2014, native to Southeast and considered to be endangered.
The three turtles were found trapped in a net in the New River, Gainesville.
Largest Alligator Snapping Turtle in Record
FWC has been studying the Suwannee alligator snapping turtles since 2014. Those they found last week captured in a net trap, namely a 100-pound male, 46-pound female, and a 64-pound male, were believed to be 40-80 years old.
This week our biologists were out checking traps set for the Suwannee alligator snapping turtle, Macrochelys... Posted by FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute on Friday, 21 August 2020
They were immediately released back to the wildlife after taking photographs and recorded their vital statistics.
FWC said that finding a large turtle in such a small and blackwater stream with low biological productivity, such as the New River, is unusual. Due to that, they have been working with researchers from Florida and Georgia to identify the animal's population density in the area.
Initially, scientists believe that there was only one living species of alligator snapping until discovering the new species in 2014.
Suwanne Alligator Snapping Turtle
Alligator snapping turtles are the largest freshwater in North America, and there was even a third species named Apalachicola snapping turtle, but it was not widely recognized, unlike the other species.
However, though its name suggests that it belongs to the family of snapping turtles, they actually came from a different genus.
The alligator snapping turtle got its name because of the ridges on its shell that looks like the rough skin found on alligators. Moreover, the turtle is also dubbed as 'the dinosaur of the turtle world' because of its beaklike jaw, scaly and thick tail, and spiked shell.
On average, alligator snapping turtles live up to 70 years, although some could live up to a hundred years. Most of their lives are spent underwater in rivers and canals except for the times when females would crawl to the surface.
According to the National Geographic, male alligator snapping turtles typically weigh 175 pounds, although some could go up to 200 pounds. But for females, they are relatively smaller, weighing only under 50 pounds.
These turtles also have a unique way of hunting. They use the large pink chunk of their tongues to lure in their prey, like fish or frogs. It instantly snaps its jaw shut once its prey gets in.
With the exception of humans who hunt them for their meat and shells, the alligator snapping turtle does not have any natural predators because of its size and natural defenses.
However, due to the unregulated harvesting and habitat loss, their population has dwindled over the past years. Scientists are specifically concerned about the Suwannee alligator snapping turtles because of their limited habitat.
If ever disaster would happen, like a chemical spill or a catastrophe that affects the entire river, they could be greatly affected, threatening their population further, said FWC scientist Travis Thomas in 2014.
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