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Matamata Turtle » Physical characteristics, Habitat and Food

There are many species of turtles in the world but none so particular as the Matamata Turtle (Chelus fimbriata) one of the rarest animals of all.

This turtle is an aquatic reptile native to South America, which has strange characteristics that will surprise you.

Physical characteristics of the Matamata Turtle

The matamata turtle is a rare reptile that belongs to the family Chelidae.

If we observe it in detail we can realize that we are in front of a unique species.

The first thing that calls the attention of this reptile is the strange form of its head, very different from that of a common turtle, because it is long, flat and triangular.

This species is considered the largest in its family and it may reach a weight of 15 kilos.

The anatomical structure of the spine and internal organs of this rare animal are protected by its hard carapace whose average length is 45 centimeters.

The pigmentation of its carapace varies between brown and black tones.

When it reaches an advanced age, the pigmentation of some parts of its body, such as the head, neck and tail, turn greyish brown.

The matamata turtle has a series of bulges around its skin and a rather curious characteristic is that it has a pair of whiskers and another pair of strands in the chin area.

Its peculiar snout is markedly prolonged and has a rare tube-like shape.

The neck is impressively elongated and flattened. This rare animal is endowed with sharp claws and membranes between its fingers that help it with its swimming skills.

When this turtle goes into the sea it can hold its breath for a long period of time.

On the other hand its tail is long and bulky. In addition, in this species sexual dimorphism is evident, where the male’s plastron is more pronounced and concave than the female’s.

Where do these strange turtles live?

The matamata turtle is an aquatic species that prefers to develop its life by swimming in fresh water with little movement and little depth.

It is for this reason that its favorite habitat is rivers, swamps, marshes and lagoons.

The Chelus Fimbriatus is native to some South American countries, so it is scattered in the tropical forests of eastern Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, southern Venezuela, Colombia, Guyana and central Brazil.

These animals require certain characteristics to develop normally, one of them and the most important is the conservation of its habitat and waters.

The matamata turtle requires clean waters to avoid skin diseases or shell rot.

What does your diet consist of?

The matamata turtle is a species that adopts a fairly varied diet: toads, snails, worms, crustaceans, birds and other small animals.

However, despite this, it usually feeds mainly on fish.

This rare reptile has a very curious way of capturing its prey. When it is time to feed, the matamata turtle remains motionless in the water. When it senses an animal nearby, it waits for it and opens its mouth wide.

As a consequence of this action, it provokes a current that facilitates its capture. When it does so, it closes its mouth abruptly and ingests the entire animal.

Reproduction of the Matamata Turtle

This rare reptile is ready to reproduce once it has reached sexual maturity.

During the courtship process the males try to attract the females by spreading their limbs, rocking their head and sides with their mouths half open, in order to show the female that they are interested in her.

Once the female accepts this and copulates, she lays about 12 to 18 eggs in the nest.

From that moment on, she will incubate them for 200 days and after this time, when the eggs hatch, beautiful young with warm tones in their small plastones will come out.

Does the Matamata Turtle have predators?

It is not yet known for sure which animals are natural predators of the loggerhead turtle, but it is believed that otters are one of them.

What is known is that this reptile is highly threatened by humans, who take its population as a consumer product or for medicinal uses.

In addition to this, because of its strange shape this animal is trafficked to be sold as exotic pets.

The matamata turtle is a species currently considered in the “least concern” category.