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Tortue mata-mata © MNHN - F-G Grandin

The matamata turtle

The matamata turtle, Chelus fimbriatus, is a species of freshwater turtle with spiky ridged scales. It has very specific physical features compared to other turtles.


Class, order and family :
Reptilia, Chelonia, Chelidae
Life span :
up to 10 - 15 years in captivity
Size & Weight :
up to 45 cm and up to 15 kg
Incubation period :
200 days, 12 - 28 eggs
Natural habitat :
tropical forest - freshwater, wet environments
Diet :
carnivore - insects, crustaceans, fish
Native region :
South America


The matamata turtle does not move around much and is capable of remaining motionless for hours on end. Hidden away on the muddy bottom of swamps, it is invisible with its shell covered in bumps and algae.
To breathe without coming up to the surface, it stretches out its long neck and pokes out a short snorkel-like snout where its nostrils are located. In murky waters, the two sensory barbels around its mouth enable it to detect its prey.