Q:

What is a snapping turtle?

A:

There are two types of snapping turtles: the common snapping turtle and the alligator snapping turtle, both of which are relatively large predatory freshwater turtles. Alligator snapping turtles are the larger of the two species, weighing up to 180 pounds, making them the largest freshwater turtles in the world. They have powerful and sharply hooked jaws for catching prey and defending against predation.

The common snapping turtle and alligator snapping turtles are both ambush predators, hiding and remaining still underwater until prey comes within range. Alligator snapping turtles have a gray-green coloring in general, but their tongues are pink and resemble worms. They use these tongues as bait, waiting for fish or other prey to literally swim into their jaws. Alligator snapping turtles often stay still at the bottom of a body of water for nearly an hour at a time, remaining so motionless that algae grows on their back, enhancing their camouflage.

Common snapping turtles often bury themselves in mud to conceal themselves while hunting, but are generally more active than their larger cousins. At night, they emerge onto land and eat anything they can catch. They are even known to decapitate other turtles, although it is unknown whether this is a method of predation or a territorial behavior.


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