Creatures of the Amazon

The Mata-Mata

By Mike Collis
One of the most unusual creatures you are likely to encounter in the Amazon Region is the Mata mata. This strange looking turtle is actually a throw back to prehistoric times and is a side-necked turtle with the latin name Chelus fimbriata. The Mata mata lives throughout the South American rainforest where it inhabits stagnant pools, slow moving streams and swampland. It prefers to stand in shallow water so it can breathe through its snout. This turtle is well camoflaged and its shell looks like a piece of tree bark, it's head and neck when extended look like fallen leaves. It is carnivorous feeding only on aquatic animals and fish. It prefers to lie in wait motionless until its prey approaches. The Mata mata then lurches it's head forward opening its large month, which in turn creates suction which literally just sucks in its prey like a vacuum cleaner, its mouth then snaps shut and the prey is swallowed whole because the Mata mata cannot chew it's food.

These turtles can grow up to over 30 lbs and a full grown adult can be over 18 inches in length. Its forefeet are webbed which enables it to swim when nesessary.

Mating usually occurs between October and December and the males attract the females by pushing their heads forward towards their prospective mate with its mouth open and moving the lateral flaps on its head. Up to 28 delicate eggs are laid in a clutch.
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