Ok, so you’re a fish. Nothing mental or big, just, like, a minnow or something. You’re chilling in your river, looking for food, when you spot a tasty little worm in the mud.
Then, just when you’re close enough to grab it, BAM. You’ve been cut in half. No warning, no chance to escape, just one second tasty worm, the next second dual guillotine fatality. You got Alligator Snapping Turtled.
The Alligator Snapping Turtle is the largest freshwater turtle in the world, and looks very much like the offspring of a tyrannosaurus, an armoured personnel carrier, and one of those unsettling staple removers with the jaws.
It can be found in fresh water all over the south-eastern United States, sitting on the bottom of rivers, lakes, ponds and swamps with its mouth open, daring things to try to catch that worm.
The worm lure is an appendage on its tongue – as even the inside of its mouth is heavily camouflaged, it can lie in wait with its mouth open without risking detection. The “worm” is an example of aggressive mimicry, where predators imitate something harmless or appealing to prey, to put their prey at ease or draw them closer. The angler fish’s glowing lure is the most famous example of this, but that thing where your boss pretends to be a customer is an equally scary and devious human example.
Alligator Snappers have been recorded at up to 113kg (249lb, or “two-thirds-again as heavy as me”) and can bite through broom handles. In the wild, they eat anything they can get their scaly mitts on, predominantly fish (living and scavenged), other turtles, water birds, amphibians, snakes, molluscs… The list goes on. Larger snappers even drag down aquatic rodents, swimming mammals such as armadillos, and small alligators.
They are estimate to be able to live from 120 to 200 years, but no-one really knows how long they can keep going in the wild. So, if all else fails, if you won’t take the worm bait, if you won’t swim near by, if their extendible neck and lightning-fast scissor jaws are too slow for you… That’s ok. The Alligator Snapping Turtle will just wait. It’s got time.