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snapping turtle

snapping turtle, large, aggressive New World freshwater turtle. The two snapping turtle species are the sole members of the family Chelydridae. Snapping turtles prefer quiet, muddy water. They spend most of their time submerged, surfacing periodically to breathe. They feed on fish and other aquatic animals as well as on vegetation and decaying matter; they are valuable scavengers. They have long necks, powerful jaws, and fierce dispositions, lunging at aggressors and biting them. Snapping turtles lay their eggs in the ground in early summer, often at some distance from water. The eggs, about 20 in a clutch, hatch after a 10-week incubation, and the young find their way to water.

The common snapping turtle, or snapper (Chelydra serpentina), is found from SE and S central Canada to NE South America. The adult is often over 18 in. (45 cm) long and weighs over 30 lb (14 kg); some specimens weigh twice as much. The alligator snapper (Macrochelys temmincki) is found in the SE United States and the Mississippi valley. One of the world's largest turtles, it may reach a length of 30 in. (75 cm) and weigh 200 lb (90 kg). It has a muscular, wormlike projection on the tongue, which it uses as a fishing lure as it lies concealed in the mud of a river bottom. In Japan and Europe, where snapping turtles were imported as pets, the turtles have found in the wild and are invasive species.

Snapping turtles are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Reptilia, order Chelonia, family Chelydridae.

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Chelydridae

Chelydridae (snapping turtles; order Chelonia, suborder Cryptodira) A family of freshwater turtles in which the head is large, with knobs of skin around the face. The carapace is incompletely ossified, and the plastron is reduced to a cross-strut. The tail is long, with lateral spines. Snapping turtles are carnivorous and obtain food on the bottom of ponds and rivers. There are two species, found in the USA.

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snapping turtle

snap·ping tur·tle • n. a large American freshwater turtle (family Chelydridae) with a long neck and strong hooked jaws. Two North American species include the common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) and the larger alligator snapping turtle (Macroclemys temminckii).

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snapping turtles

snapping turtles See CHELYDRIDAE.

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