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Facts about alligator snapping turtles

Alligator snappers are the largest freshwater turtles in North America, and typical adults weigh 35-150 pounds. Weights up to 316 pounds have been reported, but have not been substantiated.

Female alligator snappers are considerably smaller than males and rarely exceed 50 pounds.

The alligator snapping turtle has three pronounced ridges, or keels, on its carapace or shell. These keels, along with a strongly hooked jaws and fleshy projections on the head, neck and limbs, give the turtle a striking prehistoric appearance.

An alligator snapper can live to a considerable age. A male alligator snapping turtle at the Philadelphia Zoo lived for 70 years.

These freshwater behemoths are found only in the southeastern United States, in rivers that drain into the Gulf of Mexico.

Alligator snappers are some of the largest predators of the southeastern rivers. Other large predators include the blue, channel and flathead catfish; the American alligator; and the alligator gar.

A typical alligator snapping turtle diet includes a wide variety of foods: fish, crayfish, mussels, crabs, clams, snails, snakes, small alligators, other turtles, mammals and birds. The turtle might also dine on tupelo and palmetto fruits, wild grapes and acorns.

Musk turtles can detect the presence of alligator snapping turtles by smell and will avoid areas occupied by the alligator snappers.

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