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Common Snapping Turtle

Updated on November 10, 2020
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Alex has taught at seven public schools, been accepted into three honorary societies, and traveled the Americas and Europe. He has his BS.

Chelydra serpentina



The common snapping turtle, whose binomial nomenclature is Chelydra serpentina, is a beautiful species that lives in the United States. I've come across this animal in the wild. I've seen the creature in the infant state and full-grown. It can be found near water in places such as Maryland. Do not attempt to touch this reptile, as it does bite.


Snapping Turtles

Turtles are interesting creatures. They "are among the longest-lived vertebrates (Congdon 39). Snapping turtles are very unique among the turtles of our great nation. For example, "[t]he snapping turtle has the greatest distribution of any North American fresh-water turtle" (Iverson 97).

Have you ever seen a snapping turtle?

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Snapping turtles make nests (Congdon 45), which suggests a fairly complicated reproductive cycle. The nearest snapper may be older than your dog! Snapping turtles have lives which "may exceed 47" years (Congdon 52). Snapping turtles can get big. The last one I saw was very large. In fact, they are "the second largest North American turtle" (Iverson 97). I have never seen a snapping turtle at night. Still, there are some who believe snappers to be "primarily nocturnal" (Obbard 630). Such a feature of the animal has been noted as "anecdotal" (Obbard 630). I wouldn't be entirely surprised if this is the case, as I don't see many snappers during the day either. Moreover, one study showed that "snapping turtles were rarely active at night" (Obbard 636). It is not entirely clear whether the common snapping turtle is dirunal or nocturnal (Obbard 636).


Their bite is intense. That is known to those who have seen these turtles snap their mouths closed. They have been called "ambush predators" (Obbard 635). These creatures are omnivorous. Although they can be easily observed eating fish, they also are known to eat plants (Obbard 635). Members of this species can be found "in lakes, ponds, streams, and slow-flowing rivers" (Aresco 435). They live "throughout southern Canada and the entire eastern and central United States" (Aresco 435). They can be found as far south as South America (Aresco 435).


I love these animals. Be safe and respect the creature if you come across one! They are amazing organisms.

Works Cited

Aresco, Matthew J., and Margaret S. Gunzburger. “Ecology and Morphology of Chelydra Serpentina in Northwestern Florida.” Southeastern Naturalist, vol. 6, no. 3, 2007, pp. 435–448. JSTOR, Accessed 2 July 2020.

Congdon, Justin D., et al. “Reproduction and Nesting Ecology of Snapping Turtles (Chelydra Serpentina) in Southeastern Michigan.” Herpetologica, vol. 43, no. 1, 1987, pp. 39–54. JSTOR, Accessed 2 July 2020.

Iverson, John B., et al. “Local and Geographic Variation in the Reproductive Biology of the Snapping Turtle (Chelydra Serpentina).” Herpetologica, vol. 53, no. 1, 1997, pp. 96–117. JSTOR, Accessed 2 July 2020.

Obbard, Martyn E., and Ronald J. Brooks. “A Radio-Telemetry and Mark-Recapture Study of Activity in the Common Snapping Turtle, Chelydra Serpentina.” Copeia, vol. 1981, no. 3, 1981, pp. 630–637. JSTOR, Accessed 2 July 2020.

© 2020 Alexander James Guckenberger


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