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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Snapping Turtles: Nature's Way of Saying Screw Off

Perhaps this is just coming from being the passionate owner of one, but turtles are another animal that always have a special spot in my heart (well technically my brain). They're such odd animals, and I hope to chronicle them over the next few days. And what's a better way to start than snapping turtles, my own seen above?

Those who have been familiar with this blog for some time now might recognise the photo above: it's an alligator snapping turtle photo I captured at Serpent Safari in Gurnee. Alligator snapping turtles are one of the two main kinds of "snappers". Alligator snapping turtles are the largest of the modern genera, bigger than even the Arrau turtle of South America. Found primarily in the Southeast US, they can also be found in parts of the Midwest. These huge turtles (some reaching 250lbs) are opportunistic carnivores, taking many species of animals, alive or dead. Fish, molluscs, carrion, and amphibians forms the majority of their diet, but they also prey on rodents, other reptiles, worms, and even some aquatic plants. They're even tough enough to devour the babies of the largest reptile in the US: the American alligator. And toughness brings us to our next turtle.

Common snapping turtles have no conception of size whatsoever. Lions will often back down from elephants and giraffes, wolves sometimes won't approach moose, and even crocodiles often don't attack the biggest prey. Common "snappers" on the other hand, go after anything. What they lack in size (weighing "only" 35lbs on average) they make up for in ferocity, often launching themselves and snapping at any opponent, often in a rhythmic repeat. My own often tries to snap at me during feeding time. As the name suggests, they are widespread across the US. Not even Central and South America are safe from the scourge, each having their own species of "snapper".

And we know not even prehistoric times were safe from snapping turtles. Hell Creek had these (now just picture a T. rex with its toes caught in a snapper's mouth), alligator snapping turtles have been around since the Miocene, and the Kayenta Formation had its own version in the form of the above Kayentachelys. Next up are the pig-nosed turtles.

The last two photos do not belong to the author; only the first two do. 

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