Chelydra serpentina

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Snapping turtle seen while birding and at an aquarium in North Carolina

Snapping Turtle - Chelydra serpentina

Habitat Prefer muddy lakes and ponds as well as slow moving rivers (1).

Range Found from Southern Canada down to the Gulf of Mexico. They also live from the Atlantic Ocean to the Rocky Mountains.

Description Larger turtles that can have shells longer than 18 inches and can weigh over 45 pounds. They can live to be up to 30-40 years. Snapping turtles will eat pretty much anything from small fish, salamanders, insects, snails, worms, snakes, small ducks, and dead animals.

Ecological Notes Snapping turtles can lay 20-40 eggs at a time which hatch around early August. Snapping turtles do not really swim, they walk and bounce along the bottom of the pond or stream they are in. Snapping turtles have very good eyesight and can even see straight up due to the position of their eyes.

Personal Information We saw snapping turtles while walking by a pond while birding. We also saw another snapping turtle while at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island.

Journal Articles A study by Kenow et al. showed that a snapping turtle ate thirteen of 120 radio-labeled ducklings on the Mississippi River. The study also compared the predation on waterfowl with the snapping turtle. The snapping turtle ate thirteen ducklings, while the fox only ate four ducklings (2). For more information please see:

[1] Kenow, K.P.(2009) "Predation of Radio-Marked Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) Ducklings by Eastern Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina serpentina) and Western Fox Snakes (Pantherophis vulpinus) on the Upper Mississippi River" Journal of Herpetology.43 (1), 151-158

Snapping turtles can also be used as bio indicators for pollutants. By looking at the snapping turtles hatchling and deformity rates, the health of the ecosystem can be estimated. A study done on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes showed that snapping turtles have lower hatching and increased deformity rates when exposed to pesticides and PCB's (3). For more information, please see:

[2]de Solla, S.R. et al. (2008) "Snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) as bioindicators in Canadian Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes Basin. II. Changes in hatching success and hatchling deformities in relation to persistent organic pollutants" Environmental Pollution. 153 (3), 529-536

Contributed by Greg Schwertner - 2010

Back to Bio 412 Marine Biology Field Guide

References

1. http://www.fcps.edu/islandcreekes/ecology/common_snapping_turtle.htm

2. Kenow, K.P.(2009) "Predation of Radio-Marked Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) Ducklings by Eastern Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina serpentina) and Western Fox Snakes (Pantherophis vulpinus) on the Upper Mississippi River" Journal of Herpetology.

3. de Solla, S.R. et al. (2008) "Snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina) as bioindicators in Canadian Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes Basin. II. Changes in hatching success and hatchling deformities in relation to persistent organic pollutants" Environmental Pollution.