Vulture turtle

The vulture turtle (Macroclemys temminckii) is the only member of the genus Macroclemys. This species is considered the largest freshwater turtle, because the weight of an adult can reach 80 kg. These turtles are quite intimidating. Their shell is similar to the shell of some ancient lizard. The turtle got its name from the vulture bird due to the fact that they have a similar beak shape with this bird. Vulture turtles are very aggressive, bite hard and are very dangerous predators.

View origin and description

Photo: Vulture turtle

Photo: Vulture turtle

The vulture or alligator snapping turtle belongs to the family of rim turtles. Genus Vulture turtles, species Vulture turtle. The question of the origin of turtles still remains unresolved. Some scientists believe that turtles are descended from extinct reptile cotylosaurs that lived in the Permian period of the Paleozoic era, namely from the species Eunotosaurus (Eunosaurus) these are small animals that look like lizards with wide ribs that formed a dorsal shield.

According to another opinion, turtles are descended from a small group of reptiles that are descendants of the amphibian discosauris. According to recent research, turtles are diapsids with reduced temporal fenestra and are a related group in relation to archosaurs.

Video: Vulture turtle

The first turtle in history that is currently known to science lived on earth about 220 million years ago during the Triassic period of the Mesozoic era. The ancient turtle was very different from modern turtle species, it had only the lower part of the shell, the turtle had teeth in the mouth. The next tortoise, Proganochelys quenstedti, which lived in the Triassic period about 210 million years ago, was already more similar to modern turtles, it already had a fully formed shell, however, it had teeth in its mouth. At the moment, a large number of fossil species are known. Among them, there is also the largest turtle of the genus Meiolania, the length of the shell of which was 2.5 meters. Today, there are 12 families of turtles and they are actively studied.

Macroclemys temminckii the alligator turtle is very similar to the caiman biting turtle, but unlike this species, the vulture turtle has eyes located on the sides. Also, this species has a more hooked beak and a row of supramarginal shields, which is located between the marginal and lateral shields. The rear shell of a turtle is heavily serrated.

Appearance and features

Photo: Alligator Turtle

Photo: Alligator Turtle

The vulture tortoise is the largest land tortoise. The weight of an adult turtle is from 60 to 90 kg, however, there are turtles weighing up to 110 kg. The males of this turtle species are much larger than the females. The body length is about 1.5 meters. The carapace of a turtle is wide, rounded, has three sawtooth ridges that are located along the shell. The size of the carapace is about 70-80 cm in length. Brown shell.

From above, the turtle's head is covered with shields. Turtle eyes are located on the sides. The head is large and rather heavy; there are spikes and bumps on the head. The upper jaw of the turtle is strongly bent down, resembling a bird's beak. The turtle has a strong and muscular neck, which has various projections and warts. The chin is strong and thick. In the oral cavity there is a vermiform tongue of red color. Small yellow plaston does not completely cover the turtle's body.

On the long tail there are 3 rows of outgrowths at the top and several smaller outgrowths at the bottom. On the paws of the turtle between the fingers there are thin membranes on the fingers there are sharp claws. On top of the tortoise shell, a plaque of green algae often accumulates, it helps to be invisible to the predator. The vulture turtle can be considered a long-liver because in the wild the turtle lives for about 50-70 years. Although there were real centenarians among this species of turtles, who lived for 120-150 years.

Interesting fact: The vulture turtle has an additional weapon, a foul-smelling liquid in the anal bladders, when the turtle feels danger, she may not bite a person, but only open her mouth and spew liquid from anal blisters, so she warns of danger.

Where does the vulture turtle live?

Photo: Vulture Tortoise in USA

Photo: U.S. Vulture Turtle

The homeland of the vulture turtle is the United States of America. This is mainly the state of Illinois, Kansas, Iowa, here turtles of this species are most common. Turtles live in the Mississippi River basin and other rivers flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. And also settle in the lakes, swamps and canals of North Florida. They inhabit the reservoirs of Texas and the state of Georgia.

Although this type of turtle is considered land-based, turtles spend more time in the water, and they get out on land only in order to acquire offspring. For life, they choose warm freshwater reservoirs with rich vegetation and a muddy bottom. For turtles of this species, it is very important that the reservoir has a muddy bottom with rather muddy water. Turtles burrow into the mud while hunting.

In nature, turtles of this species are very difficult to see, they lead a very measured lifestyle, almost constantly being under water. Alligator turtles come to land only to build a nest and lay eggs. Very unusual places are chosen for the nest, it can build a nest on the side of the road or in the middle of the beach.

During the nesting period, the turtle tries every year to lay a clutch in that — the same place where did it last year sometimes takes into account every centimeter. Young turtles choose places with slow flow and well-warmed water, where they can hide. Sometimes turtles of this species are able to migrate in search of food, however, for the safety of people, they are first of all returned to their usual habitats.

Now you know where the vulture turtle lives. Let's see what she eats.

What does the vulture turtle eat?

Photo: Vulture or alligator turtle

Photo: Vulture. or alligator turtle

The main diet of the vulture turtle includes:

  • fish of various breeds;
  • worms;
  • crayfish, shellfish;
  • shrimp;
  • lobster and lobster;
  • frogs and other amphibians;
  • snakes;
  • small turtles;
  • algae, plankton.

The main part of the diet is fish, it is on it that the animal most often hunts. The vulture snapping turtle is a very dangerous predator; it has powerful jaws, with which it easily tears apart any prey and powerful claws. The turtle easily copes even with large prey. During the hunt, a cunning predator burrows into the silt so that it is not noticeable. The turtle lies there absolutely motionless until the prey swims up to it. At the same time, she flaunts her thin worm-like tongue. An unsuspecting fish, noticing a red worm writhing at the bottom, swims up to him. The turtle, having let the prey as close as possible to itself, calmly opens its mouth and eats it.

In addition to fish, the vulture turtle can eat frogs and amphibians. Quite often there are cases of cannibalism, when turtles of this species attack smaller turtles. Can catch a snake and eat it. And also the turtle eats green leaves of algae, small mollusks, crustaceans. Adult turtles are able to catch waterfowl.

Interesting fact: During hunting, the vulture turtle can lie on the bottom under water for more than 40 minutes.

Character and lifestyle features

Photo: Red Book vulture turtle

Photo: Red Book vulture turtle

Alligator turtles prefer to lead a secretive lifestyle. The most comfortable reptile feels hidden in the thickness of muddy water among the vegetation of the branches. In the water, the turtle is calm and attacks only when hunting, or when it feels threatened. Most of the time the turtle spends under water, however, it needs to swim to the surface every 30-50 minutes in order to take in air, so the reptile tries to settle in shallow water bodies. The turtle begins to behave most aggressively if you try to take it out of its familiar environment, in which case the turtle begins to defend itself and can bite hard. Turtles do not like people, but they are tolerant if they are not touched.

Interesting fact: Thanks to their powerful jaws, the bite of this species of turtle is very dangerous. The bite force is 70 kg per square centimeter. A turtle can bite off a person's finger in one motion, so it's best not to touch the reptile. If you need to pick up a turtle, you can do this only by the back of the shell.

Some turtle lovers dream of having such a pet, but in almost all US states it is forbidden to keep this type of turtle at home, as they can be extremely dangerous. In nature, turtles are dangerous and aggressive predators, they are usually invisible, but they are quite insidious. The social structure is undeveloped. Turtles of this species prefer to live alone, meeting only during the mating season. Family and parental feelings are also undeveloped, but females have a highly developed reproductive instinct. Parents practically do not care about their offspring, however, little turtles are able to get their own food from the first day of life.

Social structure and reproduction

 Photo: Vulture turtle

Photo: Vulture turtle

Vulture turtles reach sexual maturity at the age of 13 years. Mating in turtles occurs in a pond near the shore. After some time, the female comes ashore for the first time in her life in order to lay her eggs. At one time, the female lays from 15 to 40 eggs. The eggs of vulture turtles are pink.

Interesting fact: Turtles are extremely good at navigating, they navigate the earth's magnetic field and are able to find the place where they themselves were born and where the female laid eggs last time to the nearest centimeter.

A turtle can create a nest in the most unusual place, in the middle of the beach, near the road, but at the same time, the clutch is always located at a distance of more than 50 meters from the water. This is done so that during high tide the water does not destroy the nest. The clutch is formed by the female independently. With its hind legs, the turtle digs a cone-shaped hole in the sand, where it lays its eggs. After that, she buries the eggs in sand, trying to disguise the masonry as much as possible. After the turtle has laid its eggs, it returns to the water. Parents do not care about their offspring. The sex of baby turtles depends on the conditions in which the eggs were during the incubation period. The cubs are born after 100 days, the hatching of turtles from eggs occurs in the fall.

Turtles hatch into the world very small, the size of a newborn turtle is only 5-7 cm. The color of newborn turtles is green. Guided by instinct, little turtles crawl across the sand towards the water. Even being very tiny, they are able to get their own food by eating small insects, plankton, fish and crustaceans. The turtles no longer meet with their parents, but the females return after 13-15 years in order to build their nest in the same place where they were born.

Natural enemies of vulture turtles

Photo: Vulture turtle in nature

Photo: Vulture turtle in nature

Thanks Due to their large size and rather frightening appearance, adult turtles of this species have no enemies in nature. However, small turtles often die from being eaten by large predators.

Nests are usually destroyed by such predators as:

  • raccoons;
  • coyotes;
  • dogs.

Having reached the reservoir, small turtles run the risk of being eaten by other turtles, and possibly by their own parents. Therefore, little turtles instinctively try to hide in thickets of grass. But the most dangerous enemy of vulture turtles was and remains a man. The fact is that turtle meat is a special delicacy and turtle soup is cooked from it. And also a strong tortoise shell is very much appreciated, which is quite expensive on the black market. Turtles of this species are very dangerous to catch, however, their dangerous mouths do not stop hunters. Despite the ban on hunting these reptiles, turtles are still regularly caught.

Each year, these amazing creatures become less and less. The species Macroclemys temminckii is currently listed in the Red Book and has the status of a species in a vulnerable position. In places where turtles of this species used to be found, there are very few of them left. To preserve the species, turtles are raised in zoos and nature reserves.

Vulture Turtle Conservation

Photo: Red Book vulture turtle

Photo: Red Book vulture turtle books

In the natural habitats of this species of turtles, every year they become less and less. Despite the fact that Macroclemys temminckii are very well protected by nature itself and have no natural enemies, their population is rapidly declining. Today, vulture turtles are practically exterminated by humans, only because the meat of these reptiles is considered a delicacy. To protect turtles in the United States, a ban on hunting has been introduced, on vulture turtles, however, poachers still often hunt them.

To improve the population, turtles of this species are bred in captivity. On the banks of the Mississippi River, national parks and reserves have been created, hunting is prohibited there and all animals are protected. These are places such as the Effegee Mounds National Park, Lusk Creelk, a large conservation area, which is located on the left bank of the Mississippi River, a reserve in the Delta and many others. Also, vulture turtles successfully live and breed in the Chicago reserve.

Despite the fact that in the habitats of these turtles it is forbidden to keep them at home, in other countries of the world many fanciers started these reptiles as pets. At the moment, turtles are forbidden to be sold even for home breeding, since there are very few of them left.

The vulture turtle is truly an amazing animal. They look like real dinosaurs, their method of hunting cannot be repeated by any of the other animals, because they catch prey with their tongue. For so many years this species has existed on our planet, so let's make sure that those people who will inhabit the planet in the future can see these amazing creatures. Take care of nature.

Rate article
Add a comment