Mata Mata

Chelus fimbriatus

About This Animal

SIZE: 18 in (45 cm)

RANGE: Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guianas, Brazil

HABITAT: Slow-moving and shallow bodies of water

DIET: Fish and aquatic invertebrates

ON EXHIBIT:  Turtle Gallery in River Journey

Mata matas use their camouflage to help them eat and avoid predators.  In the shallow waters where it lives, the slow-moving turtle looks like a leaf.  When fish that are attracted by the turtle’s fringes of skin swim too close to the head, the mata mata snaps its mouth shut, the water is slowly expelled, and the fish is swallowed whole; the mata mata cannot chew due to the way its mouth is constructed.

Mata mata turtles are not threatened and are readily available in the exotic pet trade. They are quite expensive to obtain. Due to their unique appearance, they make interesting display animals.