Matamata Turtle

The Matamata Turtle (Chelus fimbriata) is a large, freshwater reptile. 

The Matamata Turtle has a brown or black upper shell, called a carapace, that looks like the bark of a tree. Its lower shell, called the plastron, is creamy-yellow or brown, narrow, and without a hinge. 

It has a large, triangular-shaped, flattened grey-brown head, with spiky, ridged scales called tubercles. It has flaps of loose skin. It has a horn-like structure on its head and a long, tubular snout (nose). There are three barbels (similar to thick whiskers) on its chin and another four barbels at its upper jaw. Its neck, tail, and legs are grey-brown. Its feet have five webbed claws to enable it to walk on land, dig and swim. 

It grows to about 45 centimetres (18 inches). 

Matamata Turtle

The Matamata Turtle is native to South America, in the Amazaon river basin and the Orinoco river basin in the countries of Bolivia Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, the Guianas, and Brazil. It prefers slow-moving freshwater rivers and streams, pools, marshes, swamps, and wetlands. 

It hides in the water and sucks in food. This is called suction feeding. It eats fish whole because it cannot chew. It is carnivorous, but it will also eat some insects.

The female lays 12-28 eggs in a hole in the sand, on land, near water. 

Matamata Turtle

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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