Common snapping turtle

Common snapping turtle

Chelydra serpentina

Common name:

Common snapping turtle

Scientific name:

Chelydra serpentina

Alternative common names:


The common snapping turtle is a large freshwater turtle. Adult snapping turtles are large, 20-37cm in carapace length, and males are larger than females. They are omnivorous. In early spring, when limited aquatic vegetation exists in lakes and ponds, they may primarily eat animal matter, however, when aquatic vegetation becomes abundant, they become more herbivorous.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?

North America.

What is its invasive status in South Africa?

NEMBA Category 2.

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

Western Cape and Eastern Cape.

How does it spread?

Through intentional introductions for aquaculture.

Why is it a problem?

The impact of the common snapping turtle is unknown.

What does it look like?

Description: The common snapping turtle has a brown or olive to black upper shell, or carapace. The carapace has three rows of prominent ridges, known as keels, running along it. The back section of the shell is sharply serrated. The lower shell, or plastron, is relatively small, cross-shaped and generally yellowish to tan. It has a large head with a pointed snout and a somewhat hooked upper jaw. The head is often dark brown, while the powerful jaws are yellow to cream and frequently sport a pattern of dark streaks.

Habitat: Common habitats are shallow ponds or streams.

Breeding: Females lay 11-87 eggs, with a mean clutch size of 28-49.

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