dcsimg
7.calphotos 0000 0000 0211 0450.130x130
Organisms » » Animals » » Vertebrata » » Turtles » » Chelydridae »

Common Snapping Turtle

Chelydra serpentina (Linnaeus 1758)

Distribution

    Distribution
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    The snapping turtle's range stretches from S. Alberta and east to Nova Scotia in the north, extending south all the way to the Gulf of Mexico and into central Texas.

    Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

Morphology

    Morphology
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    The snapping turtle normally has a shell length ranging from 8 -18 1/2"and has a tail nearly as long as the shell. The tail has saw-toothed keels on it. The shell ranges in color from dark brown to tan and can even be black in some individuals. Snapping turtles have characteristic tubercles on their necks and legs. Plastrons of snapping turtles are very small and leave much of the extremities exposed. Snapping turtle necks, legs, and tails have a yellowish color and the head is dark in color.

    Range mass: 4.0 to 16.0 kg.

    Range length: 20.0 to 45.0 cm.

    Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Habitat

    Habitat
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Snapping turtles only live in fresh or brackish water. They prefer water bodies with muddy bottoms and abundant vegetation because concealment is easier.

    Habitat Regions: temperate ; freshwater

    Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams

    Wetlands: marsh ; swamp

Trophic Strategy

    Trophic Strategy
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Snapping turtles will eat nearly anything that they can get their jaws around. They feed on carrion, invertebrates, fish, birds, small mammals, amphibians, and a surprisingly large amount of aquatic vegetation. Snapping turtles kill other turtles by decapitation. This behavior might be territoriality towards other turtles or a very inefficient feeding behavior.

    Animal Foods: mammals; amphibians; reptiles; eggs; carrion ; insects; mollusks

    Plant Foods: leaves; algae

    Primary Diet: omnivore

Associations

    Associations
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    The eggs and hatchlings of snapping turtles may be eaten by other large turtles, great blue herons, crows, raccoons, skunks, foxes, bullfrogs, water snakes, and large predatory fish, such as largemouth bass. However, once snapping turtles become larger, there are few animals that prey on them. Snapping turtles are highly aggressive and will fight back ferociously.

    Known Predators:

    • great blue herons (Ardea herodias)
    • raccoons (Procyon lotor)
    • striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis)
    • red foxes (Vulpes vulpes)
    • largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)
    • bullfrogs (Lithobates catesbeianus)
    • northern water snakes (Nerodia sipedon)
    • American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos)

Behavior

    Behavior
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Snapping turtles communicate to mates with leg movements while the turtles face each other. Snapping turtles also use their sense of smell, vision, and touch to detect prey. They may sense vibrations in the water.

    Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; chemical

    Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; vibrations ; chemical

Life Expectancy

    Life Expectancy
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    In the wild snapping turtles are estimated to live up to 30 years. Snapping turtles are most vulnerable as hatchlings. Once they reach a certain size there are few natural predators of snapping turtles, though they are often hit by cars when searching for new ponds or nesting sites. In captivity they can live up to 47 years.

    Average lifespan
    Status: wild:
    30 years.

    Range lifespan
    Status: captivity:
    47 (high) years.

    Average lifespan
    Status: captivity:
    17.8 years.

Reproduction

    Reproduction
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Mating takes place from April to November. In the mating process, the male positions himself on top of the female's shell by grasping the shell with his claws. He then curves his tail until his vent contacts the female's vent. Fertilization takes place at this time. After the eggs have developed sufficiently in the female, she excavates a hole, normally in sandy soil, and lays as many as 83 eggs. The eggs take 9 to 18 weeks to hatch depending on the weather. Interestingly, female snapping turtles sometimes store sperm for several years. Sperm storage allows individuals to mate at any time of the year independent of female ovulation, and it also allows females to lay eggs every season without needing to mate.

    Breeding season: April to November

    Range number of offspring: 83.0 (high) .

    Range gestation period: 18.0 (high) weeks.

    Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; oviparous ; sperm-storing

    Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male:
    2646 days.

    Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female:
    3285 days.

    Snapping turtles do not provide any care for their babies. Adult female turtles return to the water after they have deposited their eggs on land and are not present when the turtles hatch.

    Parental Investment: no parental involvement

Conservation Status

    Conservation Status
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Snapping turtle populations are not close to extinction or even threatened. Habitat destruction could pose a danger to snapping turtle populations at a later time. Some individuals are killed for food which does impact the population, but in a very minor way.

    US Federal List: no special status

    CITES: no special status

    State of Michigan List: no special status

    IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: no special status

Benefits

    Benefits
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Snapping turtles consume the young of some game fish. The impact of snapping turtles on these populations is minimal. Snapping turtles are known to kill young and adult ducks and geese, but once again the effects are minimal.

    Negative Impacts: injures humans (bites or stings)

    Benefits
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Snapping turtles are used by many people in turtle stews and soups. Snapping turtle shells were used in many ceremonies among Native Americans. The shells were dried and mounted on handles with corn kernels inside for use as rattles.

    Positive Impacts: food