The alligator snapping turtle is a solitary species, which mates in the early spring in Florida, or later in spring in the Mississippi Valley, and nests about two months later (8) (9). Nests are dug at least 50 metres from the water’s edge, and a clutch containing anything between 8 and 52 eggs may be laid (9). Incubation lasts 100 to 140 days and most hatchlings emerge in September or October (8) (9). As with a number of reptiles, the sex of the young is determined by incubation temperature; high and low temperatures yield more females and moderate temperatures yield more males. Sexual maturity is attained between 11 and 13 years of age, and alligator snapping turtles have been known to live up to 70 years in captivity, although the lifespan in the wild is unknown (10).
The alligator snapping turtle actively forages for food at night, but is more of a ‘sit-and-wait’ predator during the day. The turtle lies quietly on the mud bottom with its jaws wide open, its dark colouring and its coating of algae making it almost invisible to fish (9). The worm-like lure within the turtle’s mouth is wiggled to entice unwary fish and, when the unlucky prey comes close, the turtle’s jaws are quickly snapped shut (6) (9). The alligator snapping turtle not only feeds on a variety of fish, but also on frogs, snakes, snails, worms, clams, crayfish, aquatic plants and even other turtles (9).