lifestyle Science

Mata mata turtle Facts.

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In South America, you’ll find the mata mata turtle, a vast freshwater turtle. It features a long, tubular nose and a triangular, flattened skull with tubercles and skin flaps. The mata mata turtle’s rectangular carapace is brown or black in hue. There are no hinges, the plastron is narrower and shortened toward the front, and the back is deeply notched with thin bridges. To protect it from predators, these markings might be intended to give the turtle the appearance of bark. Creme to yellow or brown shades cover the plastron and bridges. The head, neck, tail, and limbs are grayish brown on adults. Hatchlings display a pink to reddish hue on the bottom edge of their carapaces and plastrons that progressively vanish as they develop. Five webbed claws adorn each forefoot. Males have concave plastrons and longer, thicker tails than females.

KINGDOMAnimalia
SCIENTIFIC NAMEChelus fimbriata
FAMILYCheloniidae
LENGTH45 CM
WEIGHT15 KG
LIFE SPAN15 YRS

Distribution

The Amazon and Orinoco basins in South America are the primary habitats of mata mata turtles. Their distribution extends into northern Bolivia, eastern Peru, Ecuador, eastern Colombia, Venezuela, the Guianas, and northern and central Brazil. These turtles reside in slow-moving, blackwater streams, stagnant pools, rivers, marshes, and swamps. Mata mata turtles are entirely aquatic, although they enjoy standing in shallow water where their nose may reach the surface to breathe.

Lifespan

As with many species found in the Amazon, nothing is known about the lifespan of the Mata Mata in the wild. However, these turtles have been known to survive in captivity for up to 15 years. But some sources say the matamata may live to over 30 years and even up to 75 years.

Habits and Lifestyle

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Top view of a Mata Mata turtle (Image Credit: Shutterstock)

Mata mata turtles want to be left alone. They typically graze at night in murky water with restricted vision. However, these turtles are well suited to hunting in these settings. In common with other nocturnal reptiles, the eyes of the Mata Mata Turtle reflect light. They can also sense movement in the vicinity thanks to sensitive skin flaps on their necks. Mata mata turtles employ a particular manner of grabbing their prey. The look of their shell resembles a piece of bark, and their head resembles fallen leaves. Their skin flaps allow them to mix with the plants as long as they stay still in the water. In addition to moving the prey into shallower water, they may encircle the prey and wave their front legs to keep it from fleeing. When threatened, these turtles use a technique known as suction feeding, in which they widen their mouths to create a low-pressure vacuum that draws food into their mouths. Turtles then clamp their lips shut, the water is gently ejected, and the fish is eaten whole; Mata mata turtles cannot chew because of how their mouth is designed.

Habits of Eating

To catch prey, mata mata turtles “vacuum” up tiny fish and invertebrates. They are carnivorous bottom feeders. They stay mainly stationary and inconspicuous in the muddy waters they inhabit, which helps them ambush their prey.

Smelt is a common food source for these turtles in the Smithsonian National Zoo.

Mating Habits

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The mata mata is a freshwater turtle found in Wetlands South America, primarily in the Amazon.
(Image Credit: Shutterstock)

This turtle species is polygynous, which means that during a single mating season, the male mates with more than one female. To attract females, males put on a show for them by extending their limbs, lunging at them, and moving the lateral flaps of their heads toward them. Mata mata turtles breed and nest from October through December in the Upper Amazon. Females usually deposit 12 to 28 fragile, spherical, 35 mm-diameter eggs in each clutch. Around 200 days are required for the incubation phase to complete. Once the egg is deposited, females depart the nest. Hatchlings are completely grown at birth and don’t need parental care.

Conservation status and significant risks

Until it is classified by either the IUCN or CITES, the mata mata turtle will not be considered endangered. ​They have a vast distribution in South America, and now, there doesn’t seem to exist any severe dangers to the species.

However, a significant danger to this and other Amazonian species will come from habitat degradation and poaching for the pet trade. The Mata Mata turtle is a popular exhibit at many zoos because of its unusual look.

Predators

Predators of the species are unknown to science. However, prospective predators find mata-mata hard to discover and identify because of their cryptic nature, facilitated by the Mata mata’s camouflaged look.

When maintained as pets, the matamata turtle has to be sheltered from other household pets such as cats and dogs. A safe enclosure and close monitoring are two safety precautions included in this plan.

FAQ (FrequentlyAsked Question)

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Mata Mata turtle (Image Credit: Shutterstock)

How many mata mata turtles are there in the world?

There is no accurate information on the overall number of mata mata turtles (chelus fimbriata) in the wild. However, since the IUCN classifies this species as “near threatened,” its population is in decline, and urgent conservation measures are needed.

When it comes to mata mata turtles, who do they share their home with?

Mata mata turtles do not dwell in groups. They may be found in fresh and shallow water, close to one another. They are solitary animals. Thus they want to have their space. But mata matas interact with other animals of the like species during their mating season.

What is the average lifespan of a mata mata turtle?

Mata mata turtle’s lifespan is between 15-75 years. Mata mata turtles have a longer lifespan compared to several other reptiles. This turtle species relies on its tactile and aural capabilities to locate food and detect predators since it has a weak vision.

What kind of turtle are mata matas: freshwater or marine?

Mata mata turtles are freshwater turtles.

Experts suggest they live in saltwater, but it hasn’t been seen or proven.

What about mata mata turtles?

Yes and no. They have the capacity, but mata mata turtles are horrible swimmers.

They lack the speed and range of motion required to be genuinely comfortable as a swimming animal.

How do they communicate?

Mata mata turtles are solitary animals. They don’t interact much, but they communicate throughout their breeding seasons. They extend their heads towards others while opening and closing their lips.

How quickly can a mata mata turtle move?

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A mata mata turtle in aquarium (Image Credit: Shutterstock)

Moving around the surrounding environment is made more accessible by their skin flaps. Mata mata turtles employ a particular manner of obtaining their prey. Prey will be driven by Matas to shallower water. A mata mata turtle can hold its victim in such a manner that it can’t escape. Mata mata turtles will open their lips and swallow their prey if encircled. As a result, they can capture their prey at a breakneck pace.

Can mata mata turtles retract inside their shells?

Nope! It’s a fallacy that all turtles can hide behind their shells.

Some are “side-necked turtles” that can only crane their necks sideways rather than totally retracting them. The mata mata turtle is side-necked.

Are they dangerous to your health?

Mata mata turtles can’t be toxic. Thus the answer is no. There is no danger to people from the strange-looking mata mata turtles. However, the water they are kept prisoner in might be dangerous to people since it is laden with hazardous bacteria.

They’re adorable, aren’t they?

Animal enthusiasts find mata mata turtles quite adorable, even if they are odd and exotic pets. Mata matas are particularly endearing due to their friendly demeanor and peculiar look.

Are Mata mata turtles excellent pets?

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Man holding a Mata Mata Turtle in Los Llanos wildlife reserve region of Venezuela.
(Image Credit: Shutterstock)

The mata mata turtle is a solitary species. They don’t move much and want to be left alone. As long as the tank arrangement is proper, mata matas are relatively simple to care for. Their unusual look also makes them ideal chelonians to keep. Overall, owning a mata mata turtle is a rewarding experience.

Also Read: Rainbow Boa Facts.

Reference

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