5 things you should know about Matamata turtles

Is it a rock?
An alien?
No! It’s a matamata!
A whatawhata?

Never heard of them? That’s because they’re rare. Colombian officials recently stopped an illegal shipment of 2,200 Matamata turtles using a rapid DNA testing toolkit developed by FIU researchers. Here’s a few things you never knew you wanted to know about the planet’s strangest turtle.

  1. Some say their shells look like a space rock, but to a pesky predator, the array of bumpy brown, black, gray and green is easily mistaken for a piece of bark in the water. No one wants to eat that, making matamatas masters of camouflage.
  2. They have horrible eyesight – Like humans, they rely on all their senses to get through the day. 
  3. They can’t chew. These carnivorous bottom feeders sit silently still. When invertebrates and small fish are near, they vacuum them up and snap their mouths shut. Dinner is served.
  4. It has flaps of skin and a horn on its snout – Yup, we’re still talking about a turtle. The nerves in the flaps of skin respond to vibration, alerting them of their predators.
  5. They can weigh as much as 33 pounds, which puts them in the same weight class as the average 4-year-old kid!

Learn more about the Matamata turtle here.

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