Discover the Matamata – The World’s Ugliest Turtle

Although the matamata turtle is arguably the ugliest in the world, its ugly appearance serves a function. Its head, limbs, and carapace are shaped and colored like leaves and bark fragments. These kinds of detritus can be found living on the bottoms of marshes, creeks, sluggish rivers, and even drainage ditches. The turtle is protected from predators by its camouflage. This article discusses the whereabouts, diet, and reproductive methods of some of nature’s most unsightly turtles.

Scientific Classification Matamata Location
Kingdom: Animalia Amazon River Basin
Phylum: Chordata Orinoco River
Class: Reptilia Trinidad
Order: Testudines Florida?
Family: Chelidae
Genus: Chelus
Species: Chelus fimbriata, C. orinocensis

Matamata Facts

  • Seldom seen on land, the matamata turtle is an aquatic species. Its head and neck have tubercles and skin flaps that react to movement and other stimuli.
  • The turtle’s snorkel-shaped nose protrudes into the water, enabling it to submerge itself for extended periods of time.
  • Most matamatas are nocturnal in nature. The throats of matamatas are covered in spines.
  • According to biologists, the papillae, or spines, make sure that the turtle’s prey is directed toward its digestive tract and cannot escape.

Matamata Scientific Name

The scientific names for the matamata are C. orinocensis and C. fimbriatus, sometimes called fibriata in some accounts.The Greek word for turtle is chelus.The Latin word fimbriatus means “fringed,” and orinopensis designates the turtle’s origin in the Orinoco River of South America.

Matamata Appearance

There is no mistaking the matamata’s appearance. It is a big turtle with three keels running the length of its carapace, which may reach a length of almost eighteen inches. There is a tiny notched at the end of the plastron. The turtle swims for so long that it might almost be completely covered with algae. The turtle’s color is similar to that of fallen leaves or tree bark in the absence of algae. This is an orange, brown, gray, and dull yellow combination.

Since chelids are “snake-necked” turtles, the matamata belongs to the Chelidae family due to its unusually long neck. The turtle has a triangle-shaped head and a neck covered in barbels, tubercles, and flaps of skin. It looks like the nerves in each of these structures aid the animal’s sense of its surroundings. Its eyes have a tapetum lucidum, which resembles a cat’s eye, and its nose functions similarly to a snorkel. Although some scientists claim that the nocturnal turtle’s eyesight is quite poor, this lets it see in the dark. The matamata is able to hear thanks to its tympani. The adult matamata turtle rarely moves and is a poor swimmer despite being an aquatic turtle. Because the plastron, the bottom of a male’s shell, is concave, you can distinguish males from females. The plastron of the female is flat. In addition, the male has a thicker and longer tail than the female.

Matamata Behavior

With the exception of sometimes fluttering their skin flaps, matamatas are largely stationary when submerged in water. They only come out of the water to lay eggs, which is difficult for them because of their weak legs. When it’s not breeding season, they shun each other and don’t lounge in the sun.

Matamata Environment

The matamata is found in marshes, slow rivers, ditches with muddy bottoms, and other bodies of shallow, murky water. It is indigenous to the Orinoco and lower Amazon river basins. This includes the northern regions of Bolivia and Brazil, central Brazil, southeast Colombia, and the eastern regions of Peru, the Guianas, and Ecuador. The turtle is also found in Trinidad, and reports of seeing the matamata in Florida drainage ditches have been made.

Matamata Diet

Matamatas mostly consume other aquatic invertebrates including mussels, insects, and worms, as well as tiny fish like tilapias. They occasionally steal a small mammal, a bird, or an amphibian. The turtle’s fringes and algae-covered exterior, which resemble food, draw the attention of these predatory species.

The matamata’s jaws are not strong. It must swallow its meal whole because it is unable to chew it. The turtle extends its neck and widens its jaws in response to approaching prey. A vacuum created by this suction feeding draws in a lot of water along with the prey. The prey is swallowed and the water is squeezed out when the turtle closes its mouth. The turtle may occasionally shake its neck back and forth in an attempt to find prey. It may even herd fish into a certain location in order to consume them.

Matamata Predators and Threats

The world’s ugliest turtle is not only expertly disguised, but its size and thick carapace deter predators.Matamatas are gathered by humans for the pet trade. This turtle is infrequently eaten, but for the most part, it is just too ugly.

The deterioration of habitat and climate change pose further dangers to the matamata.

Matamata Reproduction and Life Cycle

The turtle only moves during the breeding season, which runs from October to December. A male will spread its legs, open and close its mouth, and then lunge forth while its head flaps ripple in an attempt to entice a female. Males frequently mate with multiple females.

Following mating, the female leaves the water and builds a nest along the forest’s edge using decomposing plant matter and leaf litter. This is peculiar because most turtles deposit their eggs on the sandy margins of streams or rivers. The female deposits 12–28 round, fragile eggs. After she lays them, the mother departs, and it may take 200 days for the eggs to hatch. The hatchlings are neglected by both parents.

Population of Matamata

As of 2023, the matamata population is unknown.

FAQ for Matamata

Do matamatas have three types of eating habits?

Matamatas are carnivores that use suction feeding to consume small aquatic animals.

What is meant by “matamata”?

In one of the native languages of South America, the word “Matamata” is said to signify “I kill,” even though this turtle is extremely tame.

Can You Adopt a Matamata Dog?

Although they require some upkeep and are costly to purchase, matamatas make fascinating pets. Our ugly turtle can get very big, thus their tank needs to be roomy. In addition, the water needs to be kept reasonably to highly filtered, acidic, and rich in tannins.

What Is the Matamata’s Life Expectancy?

In captivity, mamatas have a 15-year lifespan, however stories indicate that they can survive well into their 40s.