Turtles, in general, are quite a unique breed. There are various types of them within the Testudines Order. There are seven extinct genera known to man, but there are only two genera of snapping turtles still in existence today.
Both Chelydra and Macrochelys are endemic to the western hemisphere. There are six species overall, many of which have a ton of similarities between them but are invariably different in a couple of ways. There are many interesting facts about snapping turtles.
Keep reading to learn more facts about animals and how they differ from the next, and maybe you’ll pick up a couple of things that you didn’t know about these stunning snappers.
21 Facts about the Snapping Turtle You Can Sink Your Teeth Into
You may have heard of turtles living up to 30 or even 70 years old. They’ve become quite accustomed to keeping themselves alive. Keep reading if you want to find out but the intriguing and long life of these snapping beauties.
1. Snapping Turtles Hunt at Night
Snapping turtles are essentially nocturnal, as this provides them with the perfect time to hunt. The darkness, along with the quieter waters at night, acts as the perfect camouflage. The dark skin and moss-covered shells allow them to ambush their prey adequately.
2. Snapping Turtles Have a Bird-Shaped Mouth
A snapping turtle’s mouth is about as intricate as the patterns and engravings on their backs. You’ll see a bony beak on closer inspection, similar to a bird. When you open their mouths, you’ll see no teeth but a strangely unique tongue and some keratin spines that help with eating. The alligator snapping turtle is specifically unique in that they have a hole in their tongues that they will use to breathe. Now that’s a fact you probably didn’t know!
3. These Turtles Love an Aquatic Habitat
These snapping stunners prefer aquatic ecosystems and are usually found in fresh or brackish water. You’ll see most of them in streams, rivers, and lakes. They need the soft bottoms to help with camouflage and tend to nibble on what they find down there.
4. Snapping Turtles Are Mostly Solitary
What more can be said about the fact that they like to be left alone? These creatures don’t need to migrate like other sea turtles and so won’t need much help from other turtles. They only come together during mating season, and even then, it’s not for life.
5. Snapping Turtles Are Omnivores
Despite what you may have heard about snapping turtles eating human fingers, they are entirely omnivorous. They are usually found hunting unsuspecting small amphibians like frogs and snakes or insects, birds, and small mammals. They also love to munch on greenery in their surroundings and won’t be too bothered eating carrion found in their environment.
6. Humans Are a Huge Threat to Snapping Turtles
The biggest threat to these wondrous snappers, as with most creatures of the animal kingdom, is the human being. While animals usually hunt them like river otters, bears, and coyotes, this maintains the balance of nature. Yet humans tend to kill them through poaching, hunting, and road mortality.
7. The Mating Season Is From April to November
Snapping turtles will breed anywhere between April through to October, but they’re most active in April and May. Since they’re oviparous breeders, they’ll lay eggs and allow those eggs to incubate for around 45 to 75 days.
8. A Female Can Lay a Clutch of About 10 to 80 Eggs
Female snapping turtles tend to lay eggs in clutches of about 20 to 40 at a time. This can even reach up to 100 eggs. Since the female can hold viable sperm for months and sometimes up to three years, there is usually a mixed batch of paternity involved; this can impact how many eggs the female will lay.
9. The Female Does Not Stay With the Nest of Eggs
Once inseminated, the female will burrow a nest of around 7 inches deep, where she deposits her clutch. While the babies are incubating, the mother will move on and allow the eggs to develop. This is where survival of the fittest is best indicated in nature, as the hatchlings have to make their way back to their homes, fight off predators, survive currents, and so on.
10. A Hatchling Is Around the Same Size as a Quarter
When the eggs are ready, they will start to hatch; a beautiful hatchling will develop and weigh only a few ounces. Most hatchlings will be about two and a half to four inches long. They’ll only grow to around six inches long by the time they’re five years old.
11. Some Eggs Will Overwinter
In some circumstances, it will be too cold for the hatchlings to develop properly. In these cases, they’ll overwinter and only be ready to hatch sometime in the next spring. In places covered with snow, the hatchlings will learn how to fend for themselves through anaerobic processes, which allow them to survive under the ice for extended periods of time.
12. This Turtle’s Population Is Decreasing
Thanks to poaching, hunting, and accidental roadkill, snapping turtles have been on the decline in population numbers. In places like North America, the common snapping turtle is considered of the least concern because many other turtle species are dwindling in numbers significantly.
At the same time, the Central American snapping turtle is considered a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
13. Snapping Turtles Can Hurt You
While it is very rare for a snapping turtle to bite your finger off, the fact remains that they probably can. Their bite registers at about 208 and 226 newtons of force. While this is considerably lower than a human bite force, snapping turtles have an unusual advantage.
14. Snapping Turtles Are Fast
A snapping turtle can reach up to around 174 mph in water; this is particularly useful when striking for prey. Their only downfall is that they cannot maintain this speed for a very long time. So, it is vital for them to time their strike at exactly the right time. They can only reach speeds of up to three miles per hour on land.
15. Snapping Turtles Are Covered in Scales
The body of a snapping turtle is quite interesting. They have a tail that is about as long as their shell. This reaches around eight to 18.5 inches long. Their shells can be black, dark brown, or tan. They’re bilaterally symmetrical and have three germ layers.
16. Snapping Turtles Can Live For 20 to 70 Years In the Wild
While the oldest snapping turtle in captivity lived to be around 100, it is very difficult for scientists to collect accurate data on wild turtles. But, the longest-living wild snapping turtle was said to be approximately 70 years old. A turtle from Newport Aquarium was said to live 150 years.
17. You Can Pick Them Up Without Your Fingers Being Bitten Off
Their spines are delicate, so don’t pull them. Instead, grip them around the back part of their shells, closest to their hind legs. They cannot turn their necks all the way around to reach you, and all of your body parts will be safe from harm.
18. Snapping Turtles Are Timid in Water But Vicious on Land
Being immersed in water is where they’re most comfortable. So, if you ever find yourself swimming with a sea of snapping turtles, they’ll most likely continue with their day. Out of the water, they’re a lot more vulnerable. This means that once on land, they’ll be on high alert and will attack whatever comes across as a threat.
19. Snapping Turtles Have a Unique Way of Communicating
The animal kingdom is pretty well known for its varied mannerisms in the means of communication. Snapping turtles will use their sense of smell, vision, touch, and even vibrations in the water to sense prey. But, they’ll communicate through leg movements as they face a potential partner.
20. The Snapping Turtle Is an Important Ecological Benefit
Snapping turtles have many a job within the grander scheme of the ecosystem. Not only are they valuable scavengers cleaning up the floors of their environment for any dead organisms, but they also provide food for a bunch of animals. In most cases, their eggs provide a scrumptious meal to skunks, raccoons, herons, cows, and snakes.
21. The Largest Species of Freshwater Turtle is The Alligator Snapping Turtle
The Alligator snapping turtle, Macrochelys temminckii, is the largest species. You’ll find them in freshwater habitats in North America. They’re considered a vulnerable species according to the IUCN. Males can reach around 29 inches and weigh 249 pounds. Females are a little bit smaller, coming in at 22 inches and only 62 pounds.
Final Say on Interesting Facts About Snapping Turtles
There you have it, a range of peculiar and interesting facts about snapping turtles. Always remember to pick them up around their hind legs. Never tease them when they’re out of the water, and remember that the water is their home while you’re swimming around, snorkeling with snappers.
If you’re an ocean lover, you may enjoy reading a couple more facts about dolphins.