THE MATA MATA TURTLE - Chelus fimbriata

THE MATA MATA TURTLE - Chelus fimbriata - J. Patrick Fischer

When it comes to looking like the leaf litter found at the bottom of a pond then there is only one contender - the Mata Mata turtle! Native to the Amazon and Orinoco basins, the Mata Mata turtles range stretches into northern Bolivia, eastern Peru, Ecuador, eastern Colombia, Venezuela, the Guianas, and northern and central Brazil. It is strictly an aquatic species and spends most of its day in shallow water with its snout just proud of the surface so it can breathe.

The Mata Mata turtle was discovered by French naturalist Pierre Barrère in 1741 and is the only surviving member of the Chelus genus.

It is a large, sedentary turtle which inhabits the warm, acidic waters of slow moving, blackwater streams, stagnant pools, marshes, and swamps. The mata mata is carnivorous, feeding exclusively upon aquatic invertebrates and fish.

The Mata Mata's camouflage has evolved to help it become undetectable to its prey. Its shell and head resembles fallen vegetation, and as it remains motionless in the water, its skin flaps enable it to blend into the surrounding vegetation until its prey comes close.

When feeding, it thrusts out its head and opens its large mouth as wide as possible. This creates a low-pressure vacuum that sucks the prey into its mouth. Its prey is swallowed whole as the Mata Mata is unable to chew.

J. Patrick Fischer file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Stan Shebs file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

For related articles click onto the following links:
The Leaf-Tailed Gecko
The Malayan Leaf Frog
The Mata Mata Turtle
WATER LILY - Nymphaea species and cultivars

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