Florida wildlife conservationists are shocked by what they pulled out of a river. After first spotting a rare species of snapping turtle in 2014 called the Suwannee alligator snapping turtle, wildlife lovers pulled three massive specimens from the swampy Florida waters. Now, the biologists responsible for the discovery are coming forward to announce that they have found the largest ever snapping turtle to ever be identified.
The biologists who work for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission found the three snapping turtles last week and could not wait to announce their findings with the world. One of the turtles topped the scales at more than one hundred pounds! That’s the largest such snapping turtle to ever be found.
The formal name of the reptile is Macrochelys suwanniensis. The species was only discovered a few years ago and is considered an endangered species due to its extremely small population.
The snapping turtles are reminiscent of the bad guy from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies from the late 1980s. With a beaklike jaw, sharp claws, and spikes all over its limbs, the turtle appears to be a force of nature. It’s certainly not an animal you’d want to get into a tangle with.
The three turtles were found in New River, north of Gainesville, Florida. They were all caught in a hoop net trap and were later released. A male and female pair were found in one of the traps. The male weighed more than one hundred pounds, and the female weighed forty-six pounds. The other male, which was found in another trap close to the first one, weighed sixty-four pounds. These are some large turtles that could cause serious damage to any person or creature that messes with them.
The biologists quickly snapped photos of the snapping turtles and took their measurements. Then they released the creatures back into the wild.
The Florida agency wrote on Facebook, “This week our biologists were out checking traps set for the Suwannee alligator snapping turtle, Macrochelys suwanniensis. This is a new species that FWC helped describe in 2014. FWC is collaborating with other researchers in Florida and Georgia to document the distribution and relative abundance of this state threatened species. Six 4-foot diameter hoop net traps were set in the New River, north of Gainesville. In one trap, they caught a 100-pound male and a 46-pound female. Another trap had a 64-pound male. The New River is a blackwater stream with low biological productivity, so finding a large turtle in such a small stream is unusual.”
Although the animal is named after the snapping turtle, it is not as closely related to it as you might suspect. Alligator snapping turtles have ridges on its shell that make it look like an alligator. It is also considered “the dinosaur of the turtle world” because of its beaklike jaw and spiked shell. Most of these marvelous animals live to be seventy-years -old. However, some have been found to be as old as one hundred.
“If something catastrophic were to occur, such as a chemical spill or something that affects the entire river, it could potentially devastate this species,” Travis Thomas, an FWC scientist, said in 2014. “All it has is this river, and it has nowhere else to go.”