Chelydra acutirostris

Peters, 1862
South American snapping turtle

The carapace of this snapping turtle reach 41 cm, although most individuals probably have 20-30 cm carapaces (Medem, 1977). The slightly rounded carapace has sharp posterior serrations and three low keels (which may disappear with age. The anterior width of the 3rd vertebral is less than 25% of the maximum carapace width. The carapace ranges in color from brown to olive, dark brown, olive gray or black. A few light radiations or small spots may be present on the carapace of younger individuals, old turtles are often unicolored. The plastron is yellow, tan or gray; juveniles have a light-dark mottled plastron pattern. The bridge is 6-8% of the carapace length; the gular scute is subdivided into two, and 3-4 inframarginals are present. The abdominal scute is usually twice as broad as long, and the length of the plastral forelobe is normally longer than 40% of the carapace width. The large head has a narrow pointed snout, and usually 4-6 chin barbels. Neck tubercles are low, rounded, and wartlike. The skin is gray to olive-black, or dark brown.
Males are larger than females, have longer preanal tail lengths, and the vent situated beyond the posterior carapace rim.

Chelydra acutirostris ranges from at least southern Honduras southward through the Caribbean drainages of Central America to the Pacific lowlands of Colombia and Ecuador.

Geographic Variation

Prime habitat for this species is small slow moving, soft bottom streams, swamps, lakes, and river edges with little aquatic vegetation, but many submerged logs.

Natural History
Females lay approximately 35 round, white, hard-shelled eggs per clutch in flask-shaped nests during February or March.
Chelydra acutirostris is omnivorous and consumes much plant materials; animal prey consists largely of fish, frogs, crustaceans, and snails.

IUCN Red List Status (1996)
Not listed.