Mata mata turtle

At the Detroit Zoo
The mata mata turtle can be found inside the Holden Reptile Conservation Center, located near the middle of the park. There, visitors can learn about the 70 different species (and approximately 180 individuals) of reptiles at the Detroit Zoo, one-fifth of which are considered threatened or endangered in the wild.


The mata mata turtle's carapace is rough and knobby. The head and neck are large and flat and covered with numerous protuberances, warts, skin fringes and ridges. Unlike most turtles, its jaws are fleshy and not hard.


Scientific name: Chelus fimbriatus
Continent: South America
Habitat: Shallow, slow-moving, turbid bodies of water such as rivers, black water streams, swamps and marshes
Size: 12 to 18 inches
Weight: 33 to 40 pounds
Diet: Fish, amphibians, freshwater crustaceans and possibly birds and small mammals that are in the water
Reproduction: Clutch of 12 to 18 eggs that hatch around 200 days later
: Up to 40 years
Conservation Status: Not assessed



When fish that are attracted by the turtle's fringes of skin swim too close to the head, the mata mata snaps its mouth shut; the water is slowly expelled, and the fish is swallowed whole.