Thursday, March 31, 2016

Mata Mata, Chelus fimbriatus (Family Chelidae)

There are no known populations of this turtle in Trinidad, but it is an occasional waif from the flooding Orinoco.

The mata mata has been known to science sine 1741 but not described until 1783. It's large, triangular, compressed head with numerous tubercles and flaps of skin, and its tubular snout make it the most distinctive turtle on the planet. The carapace is brown to black and can reach 45 cm. Adult weight is 15 kg. The coloration, shape and texture provide the mata mata with excellent camouflage. Mata mata's lie motionless in the water until a fish comes close. It then opens its mouth rapidly and the fish is sucked in because of the vacuum created when it opens it mouth. The flaps of skin on the head likely act as motion detectors allowing the turtle to determine the position of the fish before "striking."

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