Matamata Turtle

STATUSNot Yet Evaluated


DIETSmall fish, invertebrates, amphibians, and crustaceans

RANGENorthern Southern America; Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, and the island of Trinidad

HABITATShallow bodies of freshwater; streams, swamps, and marshes

Matamata Turtle

Physical Description

Matamata turtles can grow to be 12-18 inches long and can weigh up to 27 lbs. Their heads and necks are large and flat with many protrusions and skin fringes, and they have fleshy jaws unlike other turtles. The carapace will typically be black or brown with some orange, be bumpy and rough, and have keels running down it.


This species doesn’t encounter too many predators because of their excellent camouflage and protective shells.


They have an average lifespan of 15 years, though some have been known to live into their 40’s.


Males will court the females by extending their head toward the females and open and close their mouths. The females will build nests near the edge of a forest and lay 12-28 eggs, which will incubate for around 200 days.

Fun Facts

  • These turtles are ambush predators that will spend long periods of time camouflaged on bottoms of muddy, slow-moving, shallow bodies of water.
  • They use their mouths like a vacuum to quickly suck in any prey that swims by and then expel water in order to just swallow their prey.

Conservation Messaging

In our Reptile and Amphibian (RAD) center you will find many different reptiles and amphibians including venomous and poisonous species of snakes and frogs. Many of these animals fall victim to habitat loss in the wild. Many of the species here are found in South American habitats which are subjected to deforestation, damming of rivers, water pollution, and poor agricultural and management practices.

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