Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Pleurodira (side-necked turtles)
Family: Chelidae (“snake-necked turtles”)

Genus/species: Chelus fimbriata

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: Color is faded yellow, washed out browns, oranges, and greys. The carapace has three lengthwise knobby keels with algae covering much of the carapace resembling a piece of bark, camouflaging it from possible predators. The head is widely triangular with large lateral flaps of skin and three barbels on the chin and four additional filamentous barbels at the upper jaw, The snout is a long protuberance used as a snorkel.  Carapace length to up to 45 cm (18 inches). Weight to 15 kg (33 lb).

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: Tropical. Amazon Basin, South America. Found near the bottom of turbid waterways in lakes, ponds and sluggish creeks. Rarely leaves the water.

DIET IN THE WILD: Carnivore. A “lay-in-wait” predator. Fishes and aquatic invertebrates are captured with the “gape and suck” technique. The opening of its mouth creates a vacuum to draw in prey with the mouth snaping shut, expelling the water and the fish swallowed whole.

REPRODUCTION: Fertilization is internal. They excavate their nests in decaying vegetation at the forest edge laying 12 to 28 eggs with an incubation periods of around 200 days.

LIFESPAN: To 15 years in captivity.

CONSERVATION: IUCN and CITES No special status.




REMARKS: The common name “matamata” is said to have the meaning “I kill” in one of the South American native languages.
C.fimbriatus has extremely poor eyesight. It can sense sound through a well developed tympanum on both sides of the head.


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