Alligator snapping turtles are very special looking species. They look very prehistoric, even more than the common snappers.
They also have one unique feature, and they are the only turtles in the world known to have it. Can you guess what is that ?
The Latin name for the alligator snapping turtle is Macroclemys temmincki. Some sources use 'Macrochelys', but the correct term used
in literature seems to be 'Macroclemys'.
The common name of 'alligator snapper' comes probably from the way they look - their shells are spikey, somewhat resembling of an alligators skin.
They can often be seen with their mouths wide open, which probably also contributes to people associating them with the alligators.
The carapace has three pronounced keels running longitudinally. They are accentuated with knobs or tubercles under each scute
which smooth out or wear out with age.
In comparison to most turtle species the plastron of the alligator snapper is redused.
Their necks are short, unlike necks of the common snappers. They also have many long and pointed tubercles.
Their eyes are located on the sides of their heads, unlike in common snappers where they are closer
towards the top, and have distinctive 'eyelashes'.
The most intriguing and distinguishing feature of the alligator snapping turtle is the fleshy pinkish worm-like lure they
have at the botttom of their mouths. Hunting, they lay motionless with thier mouth open, wiggling this organ to attract fish. When the
fish enters this trap, the turtle slams its mouth closed, pinning it with their hooked beak like jaws.
The alligator snapping turtles grow to be very large. They have very powerful legs. Their tails are also very long, longer
than the tails of the common snappers.
Here is a photo of one famous alligator snapper. This photo was taken in Southern Illinois. The name of the turtle was Big Bill, and he was
a celebrity there. It was caught in a net by accident in the Big Muddy River on a fishing trip.
This one was about 150 pounds. Look at the massive head and the powerful legs !