|Image: USFWS/Southeast via Flickr|
|Image: tinali778 via Flickr|
Between head and tail is a craggy shell covered in three rows of spikes. The shell alone can reach up to 80 cm (31 in) long in a really large male. Females are smaller and an unusually small adult may have a shell just 40 cm (16 in) long. That's still over a foot, so you shouldn't point and laugh. Never point and laugh at an Alligator Snapping Turtle! They REALLY don't like it!
Coming from the warm rivers and lakes of south-eastern United States, the Alligator Snapping Turtle is the biggest freshwater turtle in North America and amongst the biggest in the world. And yet, strange as it may seem, a lot of creatures initially think it's a tiny worm! Unfortunately, they often don't get a chance to re-evaluate their first impression.
|Image: hspauldi via Flickr|
Tiny worm tongue!
At the bottom of the lake, our Alligator Snapping Turtle sits unseen among the stones, dead leaves and mud. His mouth gapes open as his wormy tongue wriggles suggestively. A nearby frog is intrigued by this tongue. He likes the look of it. He thinks maybe he'll eat it. That would be nice! As he approaches the tongue, the turtle watches and waits.
|Image: brian.gratwicke via Flickr|
|Image: Semi-Automatic Gwen via Flickr|
Females leave the water to lay their eggs each year and dig their nests far enough away to ensure they won't get flooded. The eggs hatch 3 or 4 months later and it will be about 12 years before the hatchlings produce young of their own.
Alligator Snapping Turtles are thought to live for more or less 100 years in the wild and a few might even reach 200! So definitely don't feed them your fingers nor anyone else's. If one of them gets a taste for human flesh it'll be around for decades!