Mata Mata Turtle: Chelus fimbriatus
Distribution and Habitat
The mata mata turtle originated from the northern part of South America. They can be found in the Orinoco and Amazon Rivers.
They are found in muddy, stagnant, shallow pools and streams. In this environment they are able to ambush their prey. They mainly dwell in freshwater rivers but can tolerate salt or brackish water.
This is an aquatic creature with a distinctive head and neck that helps make them easily recognizable. Along with being long and flat, the head and neck have tufts or fringe; hence its Latin name “chelus fimbriatus.” These creatures can weigh up to 27 pounds and grow to 18 inches in length. They have wide mouths and atop their snout are two very small eyes.
Their name is believed to come from the Tupi Guarani word “matamata”, which is the word for these turtles.
Algae grows on the roughened carapace, causing it to look like an old, encrusted rock.
The feeding of a captive mata mata is relatively straightforward. Most animals require live prey of an appropriate size—the turtle must be able to swallow the fish whole.