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Alligator Snapping Turtle Facts

Introducing the Macroclemys temminckii, better known as the Alligator Snapping Turtle, a fascinating reptile native to the United States. As one of the largest freshwater turtles globally, these remarkable creatures capture interest with their formidable size, powerful jaws, and intriguing hunting methods.

They live primarily in the deep waters of rivers and lakes and exhibit carnivorous feeding habits, even preying on other turtles. This article will explore everything from their geographical distribution and scientific classification, to their dietary preferences, breeding habits, and endangered status, providing comprehensive insights into the life and characteristics of the Alligator Snapping Turtle.

Read on to discover more about these intriguing animals, whether you are a potential pet owner or simply an enthusiastic admirer of the species.

Alligator Snapping Turtle Facts

  • Scientific Name: Macroclemys temmincki
  • Geographical Region: They are found in an area from southeast Georgia, west to Texas, north to Iowa and Indiana.
  • Size: Can reach more than 26 inches.
  • Weight: Up to 300 pounds.
  • Habitat: They like deep waters in rivers and lakes.
  • Food: Carnivorous, they eat anything they can catch, even other turtles.
  • Interesting Fact: They are the largest freshwater turtle in the world.

Are they known by other names?

They are known by Alligator snapping turtle. In some parts of the country they are also called as snapping turtle as well. That said, there is major difference between a snapping turtle and alligator snapping turtle. The later is much heavier in size and have a tremendously powerful jaw. The jaw bone is of very high strength.

Do they live in Fresh Water or Salt Water?

They live in fresh water and are only found in the lakes, rivers of the United States.

What is this breed’s Scientific Name?

The scientific name is Macroclemys temminckii. It is often confused with common snapping turtle but they are entirely different Pisces. The name temminckii has been given to honor the Dutch zoologist Jacob Temminck. They were first spotted in 1835. The alligator snapping turtle are the only living member of the genus Macrochelys.

How long do they normally live?

Like most turtles this class of turtles too is capable of living a very long life. Although the actual life span is yet to be confirmed by any scientist, it is believed that they are capable of living even up to 200 years.

Some community suggest that the actual life span is anywhere between 80 years to 120 years. However, the most accepted theory is 20 years to 70 years.

How big do they get and what is their weight range?

They are one of the heaviest in the turtle community. There have been evidences in the past that they can be very hefty. For instance, a 180 kg and a 113 kg alligator snapping turtle were found in the year 1937 and 1999 respectively.

Typically though the average length of alligator snapping turtle is anywhere from 40.4 cm to 80.8 cm. However, turtles of more than the average length was also found. The average weight of this class of species is in the range of 68 kg to 80 kg. Even though the breeding maturity is completed when they weigh 16 kg, they continue to grow even after that.

What kind of Lighting do they require if kept as pets?

Strong lighting set up is necessary to captivate an alligator snapping turtle. The water temperature should typically be 75 degrees to 80 degrees. A heater is also necessary in the aquarium along with a thermometer.

What do they eat?

They are largely sedentary but also enjoy hunting preys. They feed on preys such as fish, worms, shrimps, feeder fish, minnows etc. They feed on dead animals too. They can also feed cooked beef, chicken and fish. Purchased turtle fish are also a good idea.

Are they Carnivorous or Vegetarian?

They are carnivorous. The strong jaw helps them to hunt easily. They are one of the fiercest hunters when it comes to catching preys.

What are the best store food brands as a pet?

Mazuri and RepTomin are some of the good brands of turtle food. Omega One too has a brand in this space.

Where do they live?

Typically they live in fresh water. Nesting females come to shore at times.

Where are they found?

Alligator snapping turtles are found only in the United States. East Texas, western Illinois, Southern Indiana, Western Kentucky are home to these species.

What are their breeding habits?

Mating of this species takes place yearly. The female produce eggs in the range of 10-50 at one go. The whole process takes one-two months. The gender is decided by the temperature at which the eggs are laid.

The female turtles build their nests 50 yards from the edge of the water, the reason being-drowning of eggs and preventing them from predators. Incubation time varies from 80 to 120 days. Mostly the new born happens in early fall.

What are their predators?

Adult snappers have no predators other than humans. We are a major threat to their existence. The harvesting of their meat have resulted in major reduction of their number over the years.

Are they endangered?

The alligator snapping turtle has been given the status of endangered species by some of the states in the United States. For instance, states such as Illinois, Indiana and Missouri are few states where these species are protected by law.

The ICUN has given them the status of threatened species a few years back. This has been done to discourage export and harvesting their meat. Estimates suggest that their population is slowly decreasing.

Common Snapping Turtle vs Alligator Snapping Turtle

Lastly we the age old question of is a common snapping turtle the same as an alligator snapping turtle is addressed below in the video. Check it out and enjoy!

Alligator Snapping Turtle Overview Video


I hope you learned something today! Let us know in the comments if you have one or if we missed something. We love hearing from you!

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Saturday 11th of June 2022

I have pictures of an alligator snapping turtle in our backyard in Minnesota. They live in the water that never freezes in ponds behind my house due to underground streams which feeds into the Minnesota River near where it drains into the Mississippi River.

Lee Russom

Sunday 15th of November 2020

I had no idea they could even get that large, nevermind 400 pounds. And if size correlates to weight, that beast had to be four tymes the size of the one you caught. I was born and reared on the southeast shore of Lake Okeechobee, small town of Pahokee. The name is a modification of the Seminole Indian word pah-hay-okee witch interprets to "grassy waters". Thus am I very familiar with South Florida wildlife. I do have a query. About what age gator turtle would be able to be swallowed by a Great Blue Heron? I photographed such a scene a couple of days ago and was wondering the turtle's age. I wish there was some way to share a few of the photos.