Wild Fact #927 – Lazy but Deadly – Matamata Turtle

02 Matamata Turtle

Well, I just finished shoveling the driveway so I figured it is time to take a trip south.  Since, I can’t do that in real life at this point in time, I figured I will do it in my virtual, blogging life.  I want to take a trip to South America to describe an unique turtle that lives primarily in the Amazon River. The Matamata turtle has developed some unique adaptations that allow them to laze around all day and still manage to catch its dinner.

You see, the matamata turtle is carnivorous and feeds on fish and invertebrates.  Now you might be thinking that it would be tough for a turtle that prefers to live a sedentary life to be able to capture the sneaky, evasive fish. If you look at the picture of the matamata turtle (go ahead and look again, I will wait!). About time, sheesh, I didn’t say to study every detail of the picture!  Did you notice that the shell of the turtle looks similar to bark while the head resembles fallen leaves (go ahead and look again).  We are going to be here all day while you study this picture!  Naturally, the colouration and shape of the turtle allows it to blend into their surroundings.  Don’t worry, this isn’t the only adaptation that allows it to easily capture a quick meal.  The matamata turtle has flaps on the side of their head and a very large mouth.  The flaps on the head and neck add to the camoflage but they are also very sensitive in detecting the slightest movement of water.  When a fish swims by, these flaps ensure that the turtle is aware that dinner is nearby. When the disguised turtle senses the swimming fish it will thrust its head forward and open its large mouth as wide as possible.  This will effectively create a low pressure vacuum and actually suck the fish into the turtles mouth.  The turtle will then snap its mouth shut and slowly expel the water. Due to the unique construction of the matamata turtle’s mouth, they can’t actually chew their prey. This means the little fishy is swallowed whole.  I think I will stay out of the shallow bays of the Amazon River while on my virtual trip.  I don’t want my foot getting sucked into the mouth of the matamata turtle.

Matamata Turtle Fast Fact: The Spanish meaning for matamata is “It Kills, It Kills”.  That pretty much sums up Wild Fact #927.

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