Mata mata Facts
- The unique name of Mata mata actually represents one of several versions of the same common name. The others consist of mata-mata and matamata. Its scientific name, meanwhile, remains that of the relatively simple to pronounce Chelus fimbriata.
- Regardless of the name you choose to use for it, the term refers to a highly distinctive species of freshwater turtle. In point of fact, it’s renowned for its unique appearance. This prompts some people to refer to the animal as a living fossil.
- The first official scientific recognition of this remarkable creature took place in the year 1741. At that time, the renowned French naturalist Pierre Barrere described it, but did not name it. Quite surprisingly, it has been renamed more than a dozen times.
- The amazing reptile also stands out for another reason. Unlike many species today, its population numbers appear to still be sufficient and stable. As a result, the IUCN currently lists the Mata mata as Least Concern on its Red List of Threatened Species.
- Given its particular habitat range, however, it must be considered to be at least potentially at risk in the future. One of the factors to be considered remains that of possible habitat loss. Its greatest threat, though, will likely come from climate change.
Mata mata Physical Description
Although the astounding Mata mata garners fully merited appreciation, it does not do so based on physical size. In those terms, the reptile only qualifies as roughly an average-sized variety of turtle. It’s in other manners that this particular turtle stands out.
In terms of dimensions, the carapace of a fully mature adult specimen averages about 18 in (45 cm) in length. Its weight, meanwhile, averages roughly 33 lb (15 kg) for the same adult individuals. The truly distinctive characteristics, though, appear in other areas.
The Mata mata also displays a very slight degree of the physiological trait of sexual dimorphism. In its case, this trait manifests itself in the appearance of the tail of the animal. Specifically, that of the adult male develops as somewhat thicker than that of the female.
Otherwise, the genders remain virtually indistinguishable. Its most notable characteristic, however, remains its remarkable shell. This develops an oblong shape, and a covering of sharp ridges. The precise reason for this eludes scientists studying the animal.
It also develops a relatively large, and, incredibly, a strongly flattened head, with a small horn on its snout. The carapace itself typically displays either a dark brown or black color. The neck, tail, head, and limbs, though, most commonly display a grayish brown shade.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Reptilia
- Order: Testudines
- Family: Chelidae
- Genus: Chelus
- Species: C. fimbriata
Mata mata Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The astonishing creature known as the Mata mata inhabits a relatively extensive region of the world. This same region also happens to be one that abounds with an astounding variety and abundance of life. It evolved as endemic to specific portions of South America.
More precisely, though, it primarily appears in the expansive Amazon and Orinico Basins. This provides it with an enormous area in which to make its home. Even there, though, the truly remarkable turtle has very specific requirements for its choice of habitat.
This creature prefers to live in relatively slow-moving, blackwater streams. It will also, though, appear in other, similar environments. These most commonly include such areas as marshes, larger stagnant pools, and even occasionally certain swampy areas.
Being primarily an aquatic species, it spends the majority of its time submerged in water, with only its snout extending. This skilled hunter snaps its powerful jaws closed on any hapless small fish or invertebrate that ventures to close, swallowing it whole.
In its region, the mighty Mata mata nests between October and December, after mating. The female typically lays between 12 – 28 delicate, spherical-shaped eggs. These she deposits in the nest constructed by, and watched over by, both parents until hatching occurs.