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Biggest Snapping Turtle In The World

If you are wondering which snapping turtle is the biggest snapping turtle in the world, the first thing to determine is which species. The biggest common snapping turtle, for instance, is a captive snapper by the name of ‘Big Snap Daddy’.

This chelonian is kept at the Schramm Education Center in Gretna, Nebraska. This turtle is said to weigh about 90 pounds (41 kg).

The biggest freshwater species, however, is the Alligator snapping turtle, and the biggest alligator snapper turtle ever caught is recorded in an unverified report from 1837. The report shows that it weighed 403 lbs (183 kg).

The biggest verified alligator snapper is still pretty big, weighing in at 249 lb (113 kg).

Let’s take a closer look at the snapper species and what we know about them in an attempt to find the biggest snapping turtle in the world!

Largest Common Snapping Turtle

  • Family: Chelydridae
  • Binomial Nomenclature: Chelydra Serpentina
  • Carapace Length: 10 to 18.5 inches (25 to 47 cm)
  • Largest Common Snapping Turtle: 90 pounds (41 kg)
  • Normal Mass: 8.8 to 35.2 lb (4 to 16 kg)
  • Normal Male Mass:  over 22 lb (10 kg)
  • Conservation Status: G5 (Secure) on NatureServe, Vulnerable  on IUCN Red List
Common Snapping Turtle
An adult common snapping turtle enjoying a little sun

The common snapping turtle is perhaps the most popular and this is the chelonian being referenced whenever you hear ‘I saw a snapping turtle’.

Commonly kept as pets, these chelonians are also a common ingredient in a popular dish – turtle soup — which is a delicacy in many places in the southern United States.

The Common Snapping turtle generally grows to 10 to 18.5 inches (25 to 47 cm) with an average length of 11.2 inches (28.5 cm). This measurement is for the turtle’s carapace – which is its upper shell. The average weight of the common snapper is  8.8 to 35.2 lb (4 to 16 kg).

With snapping turtles, the male is generally larger than the female common snapper.

The largest hatchlings measure 1.5 inches (3.8 cm), although they may be found in a range between .62 to 1.5 inches (1.6 to 3.8 cm) with an average length of 1.14 inches (2.9 cm) long.

The largest known common snapper is a specimen known as Big Snap Daddy. This turtle is recorded as weighing approximately 90 pounds and he just turned 93 years old last year!

The shell of a common snapping turtle is black to dark brown to tan — generally very dark– but the underside of the turtle (the plastron) is lighter in color. The plastron barely covers the extremities and you’ll notice that its limbs, tail, and neck are yellowish and the head is dark.

The snapping turtle also has a very long neck, which is capable of bending backward. That means the turtle can reach behind and bite you if you touch the shell by the sides or close to the head, so be careful!

This species is endemic to southeastern Canada from Nova Scotia to Alberta in the north, and from Texas to Florida in the south. The range of the species is huge and they are found in large numbers within most of their range.

As such, the species is considered G5 (Secure) on NatureServe and it is considered Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

The turtle faces several threats, including urbanization, and excessive harvest for the pet trade as well as for food. Nesting females are most exposed to excessive harvesting as they have to come out of their aquatic habitat to nest.

Another threat is high mortality due to automobile kills during nesting season.

Largest Alligator Snapping Turtle

  • Family: Chelydridae
  • Binomial Nomenclature: Macrochelys Temminckii
  • Largest Alligator Snapping Turtle: 249 lb (113 kg)
  • Normal Mass: 154 to 176 lb (70 to 80 kg)
  • Normal Carapace Length: 31.1 to 39.8 inches (79 to 101 cm)
  • Conservation Status: Vulnerable  on IUCN Red List, G5 (Secure) NatureServe Status
Alligator snapping turtle
An alligator snapping turtle ready to bite!

The alligator snapping turtle is known as the largest freshwater turtle, according to ADW,  and it is also considered to be the largest freshwater turtle in North America. The largest alligator snapping turtle that can be verified is an individual that was weighed at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

This turtle was 249 lb (113 kg) in size and the runner-up, a 236 lb (107 kg) alligator snapper, was weighed at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago.

The largest unverified alligator snapper weighed 403 lb (183 kg). In  1937  this chelonian was found in the Neosho River located in Kansas., to the Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park.

Normally, an alligator snapping turtle weighs within a range of 154 to 176 lb (70 to 80 kg) and measures  31.1 to 39.8 inches (79 to 101 cm), and the largest alligator snappers you’ll meet in the wild will weigh around 176 lbs (80kg).

Similar to other members of the family Chelydridae, males are larger than females.

The alligator snapping turtle is a rugged-looking turtle. It has a thick shell that has three ridges down the back, and these ridges are composed of large scales known as osteoderms. The ridges are also spiky, making the alligator snapper look rather like a miniature, plated dinosaur.

The spiky carapace makes it very easy to differentiate this species from the common snapping turtle.

The skin is also quite tough, and the neck is covered in tubercles. The limbs will also have some tubercles on them, just not in the same density.

The turtle is dark in coloration with its upper body being black, brown, olive green, or dark gray. The underside, by contrast, is much lighter in color — typically brown. Similar to other snappers, the plastron is tiny, but the carapace is huge and armors the turtle well when it traverses dry land.

The alligator snapper isn’t the friendliest turtle — they’re actually quite vicious and will attack when threatened. Adult snappers, will their powerful bites and amazing armor, are also considered to be at the top of their freshwater food chain.

Despite their practically prehistoric power, alligator snappers still face several threats, with overcollection for the domestic and international markets being one of the biggest.

They are collected for their meat just like common snappers, but they are also sensitive to habitat alteration, making pesticide accumulation and pollution major threats that the species face.

Alligator snapping turtles are protected in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, Kansas, Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri, and Indiana and in Indiana, Tennessee, Missouri, Georgia, Florida, and Arkansas taking a wild specimen is prohibited.

In Louisiana, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Illinois, you can take them, but you’ll need a permit!

For fun facts about alligator snapping turtles, be sure to check here when you are done!

Other Snapping Turtles

Central American Snapping Turtle

  • Family: Chelydridae
  • Binomial Nomenclature: Chelydra Rossignonii
Central American snapping turtle
Image courtesy of WikiCommons and Eugenio Padilla

This snapping turtle is endemic to Central America and found in Veracruz in Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and Guatemala. The only measurement available is that of a female who weighed 26.5 lb (12 kg) and had a carapace length of 14.6 inches (37 cm).

South American Snapping Turtle

  • Family: Chelydridae
  • Binomial Nomenclature: Chelydra Acutirostris

This species is endemic to northern South America and gets its common name from its geographic range. Sadly, there is no information largest South American snapping turtle as this species has not been adequately studied.

Suwannee Snapping Turtle

  • Family: Chelydridae
  • Binomial Nomenclature: Macrochelys Suwanniensis
  • Conservation Status: G2 (Imperiled) on  NatureServe Status

This turtle is endemic to the Suwannee River Basin and like the South American snapper, there isn’t any recorded information on the largest specimen of the species. This species used to be considered part of the alligator snapping turtle until recently, but scant data has been collected on them as of this time.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the largest turtle ever caught?

According to Guinness World Records, the largest turtle ever was a leatherback turtle. This chelonian was recorded on the beach at Harlech, Gwynedd in 1988. This turtle weighed 2,120 lb (961 kg) and the carapace length was 9 feet 5 1/2 inches (2.91 m). The length across the forelimbs was 9 feet (2.77 m).

How long was the biggest alligator snapping turtle?

The largest alligator snapping turtle was known to have reached a length of 29 inches and a weight of 249 lb (113 kg). This was a male alligator snapper. The largest female reached a length of 22 inches (56 cm) and a weight of 62 lb (28 kg).

What is the largest turtle known to man?

The largest turtle known to man and science is Stupendemys geographicus and Archelon ischyros.

Stupendemys geographicus belongs to the genus Stupendemys and has been extinct for millions of years. According to fossil records, this turtle was a generalist feeder and was the largest freshwater turtle currently known to science.

The carapace of the of the S. geographicus exceeds 6.56 feet (approx. 2 meters). The largest specimen known as CIAAP-2002-01 has a carapace length of 9.38 feet (2.86 meters). This makes it even bigger than the Archelon (which is the largest sea turtle) in terms of shell length. The S. Geographicus is calculated to weigh from 1640 to 2524 pounds (744 kg to 1145 kg).

The Archelon is also considered the largest turtle ever. Although its carapace length (2.2 m) is less than that of the Stupendemys, the Archelon is still considered to be the largest known turtle for overall mass.

Conclusion

Snapping turtles refer to chelonians found in the family Chelydridae, which includes 5 species – the common snapping turtle, the alligator snapping turtle, the Suwannee snapping turtle, the Central American snapping turtle, and the South American snapping turtle.

While we know the largest common and alligator snapping turtles, scant data has been collected on the other 3 species and so we can’t tell you the largest specimen found at this time.

The largest common snapping turtle, however, weighs around 90 pounds (41 kg) and is known as Big Snap Daddy. The biggest alligator snapping turtle weighed 249 lb (113 kg), although an unconfirmed report from 1837 shows that a 403-lb (183-kg) wild alligator snapping turtle was caught.

That’s all of the time that we have for today but until next time, thanks so much for visiting and we wish you the very best!

Ever wonder how to care for an alligator snapping turtle? Find out how it’s done in our handy care guide.

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