Side-Neck Turtle is a Mata Mata

This species of side-neck turtle is a mata mata. The mata mata's unique appearance fools predators into believing it is nothing more than a piece of bark and fallen leaves.

While waiting motionless in the water, the turtle uses its extremely sensitive skin flaps to detect nearby movement. When prey approaches, the mata mata thrusts out its head and opens its mouth as wide as possible, creating a low-pressure vacuum that sucks the prey into its mouth — this is known as suction feeding. The fish is swallowed whole, as the mata mata cannot chew.

The Mata Mata's carapace (shell) is very rough, quite flat, and large in size. It is shaped like a large oval and can measure up to an impressive 45 cm in length. The Mata Mata can weigh up to 38 pounds!

Mata Mata turtles are usually brown-gray in colour with bursts of orange colour usually under the carapace and along the plastron (underside of turtle). The Mata Mata's head is a unique part of this turtle. Like its shell, its head it rough and flat. Its head is a triangular shape and has a long stick-like nose coming out the front!

Interestingly, Mata Mata turtles have excellent hearing (auditory) and touch (tactile) senses. They have very poor eyesight, however. Their rough, folded skin allows them to better feel where they are going.

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