Reptiles

Turtle, Matamata

RANGE
Inhabit the drainages of the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers of South America (Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil). Also have been found on the island of Trinidad.

HABITAT
Shallow, standing or slow moving water that is usually turbid.

SIZE
Length: 43 – 45 cm (17–18 in.)
Note: Females tend to be slightly larger than males.

LIFE EXPECTANCY
Wild: Unknown
Captivity: Most sources report the captive lifespan of this turtle as approximately 15 years, but some claim it can live 40 – 75 years.

DIET
Wild: Ambush hunter: feeding mainly on fish, amphibians and freshwater crustaceans.
Zoo: Minnows two to three times per week

REPRODUCTION
Incubation: 200 days (Approximately 6 months)
Usually lay clutches of 12 – 24 spherical eggs, with nesting occurring October–December.

BEHAVIOR
Matamatas have been observed feeding nocturnally on the island of Trinidad. Feeding is done by extending the head up toward the prey, opening the mouth and expanding the throat to create a vacuum-like suction.
Fleshy fringes on the sides of the neck may have several uses including: camouflage, sensors to detect the movement (vibrations) of prey or as a lure for prey fishes.
The Matamata turtle is a poor swimmer, preferring to walk along the bottom of its shallow habitat. It uses its long neck as a snorkel, allowing it to breathe with its nose just breaking the water surface.

STATUS
Least concern

POINTS OF INTEREST
The carapace (shell) has conical projections that bear well-marked concentric growth rings.

REFERENCES:

  1. The Snakeneck Turtles
  2. The New Larousee Encyclopedia of Animal Life. Revised Edition. (Hamlyn Publishing Group), 1987