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Water Turtles

Various species of water turtles are kept as pets in the United States. Most of those purchased by hobbyists originate from the southern and eastern regions of the U.S. By law, imported turtles of most species must be at least 4 inches long. The trade in exotic turtles has been increasing in recent years, especially in countries with poor animal protection laws and abundant turtle populations. Turtles inhabit all parts of the world with a temperate to warm climate and are especially abundant in the tropics and subtropics. Water turtles are found in a wide variety of habitats, including ponds, swamps, small pools thick with vegetation, lakes of all sizes, large streams and rivers.

Physical Characteristics

All water turtles share some obvious physical characteristics, such as a top and bottom shell and webbed feet Many have developed specific adaptations to cope with specific environmental conditions. The Diamondback Terrapin, for example, is confined in its geographic distribution to the brackish water of the coastal eastern U.S. Brackish water has a salt content between that of fresh and sea water).

The Malaysian Snail-Eating Turtle survives well in its environment on a diet of mainly snails.

Mata Mata - The Mata Mata is an unusual-looking turtle that resembles the rotting vegetation found on the bottoms of the relatively shallow lakes and rivers in which it lives. It is a poor swimmer and rarely leaves its aquatic habitat, except to lay eggs. The Mata Mata rests motionless on the bottom, well camouflaged among the decomposing vegetation, and lies in wait for its prey.

The turtle can breathe during these long intervals through a long, narrow nose (similar to a snorkel), the end of which just breaks the surface of the water. When a small fish or other prey animal swims by, the Mata Mata opens its mouth and sucks its prey in, all in a split second.

Alligator Snapping Turtle - The juvenile Alligator Snapping Turtle's olive green-brown color camouflages it well against the bottoms of rivers in which it lives. To attract prey within striking distance, it opens its mouth and wiggles its unique bright pink, slender tongue. As a small fish moves in for a closer look, it is quickly trapped in the turtle's jaws. The adult Alligator Snapping Turtle, the largest freshwater turtle in the world, can reach 200 lb or more, and can eat an entire duck in one gulp!. Hobbyists should study and thoroughly familiarize themselves with the natural history and habits of any turtle species they intend to acquire before they select their new pet This "homework" helps ensure the turtle will thrive in captivity.