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The Mata Mata (Chelus fimbriata)

The Mata Mata is a fascinating looking turtle that has a long history. But what does it do? Well, let's look into the science behind this bumpy guy.

Physical Description and Behavior

The first noticeable thing about the Mata Mata is its thorny appearance. These appear all over its massive body, as well as its shell. It is a grayish-brown color all over, and its shell alone can be 18 inches long. It can also weigh up to 33 pounds. They, like many other turtles, are sedentary.

Since they resemble bark and fallen leaves, they are able to easily blend into their surroundings. This allows them to hide until a fish comes along, and then they are able to use their mouth like a vacuum to suck the fish in. Since they are unable to chew, they then expel the water and swallow the fish whole.

They are also exclusively carnivorous, feeding entirely on small fish and other vertebrates. They mainly feed at night, where they are able to easily hide from their prey. They also have poor eyesight, meaning that they have to focus on other methods of being able to detect if prey, or danger, is near. While it is strictly aquatic, it usually stays near the shore, where it can breathe outside of the water.

Habitat and Location

They can be found all throughout the Amazon, such as Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Bolivia. They can also be found on the island of Trinidad. They prefer slow-moving wet areas, such as slow-moving streams, marshes, and swamps.

While the IUCN Red List has not evaluated them since 1996, the Colombia Red List has them as Near Threatened. This may have to do with deforestation in the Amazon, as well as the effects of climate change.

Find out more about this guy in the video below!

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