Sunday, 19 October 2014

Creature 19: Chelus fimbriata

The laziest turtle in the world

Today our creature has to be considered one of the laziest animals in the world.

Chelus fimbriata or the Mata mata turtle spends almost its entire life underwater, only coming out to lay eggs or if their pond drys up. Their shell, head and neck are modified to camouflage in the leaf litter that they live in. This protects them from being harassed by predators and enables them to ambush their food.

You might be thinking 'how can any predator be that lazy really?', well these guys have found a way. They form a semi vacuum in their mouth when it is closed and they wait for fish to swim along. They then just need to extend their very long neck and open their mouth and the water will get sucked in along with the fish. As a turtle it obviously cant chew so it just passively swallows the thing whole.

The extra long nose is also a convenient invention for its sedentary lifestyle. turtles, like all other tetrapods, need to breathe. The combination of its long neck and long nose enables the Mata Mata turtle to breathe without getting up out of its leaf litter bed.

The Mata mata turtle are found in tropical South America. It is only found in very slow moving streams or pools because fast moving water would ruin all the cool adaptations it has foe being increadibly lazy.

Note here that I don't recognize the class Reptilia as it is clearly not monophyletic (see my discussion of linnean classification).
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class:  Sauropsida
Order: Testudines
Family: Chelidae
Genus: Chelus
Species: Chelus fimbriata

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