US Reptiles Tour
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Species Hierarchy 
Common name: TURTLE - SNAPPING


Species Info:

This lifeform is found east of the Continental Divide in North America. This lifeform is found north of the Equator in the New World tropics. Parts of this lifeform are edible. This lifeform is locally common in suitable environments.

Common Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) can be found in almost any freshwater situation from southern Canada to Florida and west to the continental divide. Some Biologists give the Florida form of this turtle full species status. In addition to the different Florida form, two more forms exist. There is a form found in Mexico and Guatemala. Another form is found from Costa Rica south to Colombia and Ecuador. A notorious feeder, it will eat anything from fish to frogs, ducks to muskrats, crayfish to insect larvae. When cornered on land, it will snap at anything and then not let go. The speed of their strike usually exceeds the human reflex to withdraw. Large examples of this species should be considered very dangerous. When underwater, snappers frequently take air by just sticking up the very tip of their noses. Frequently, they are found under the banks of rivers and in places where they can easily hide. Consequently, even though very common in many lakes, ponds, and  rivers close to civilization, they are very rarely discovered. Snappers are considered good eating and in many places in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and adjoining states, they are commercially hunted. Although most large snappers weigh less than twenty pounds, wild examples of fifty pounds are sometimes taken. Examples up to eighty pounds are also known.

Snapping Turtle Family (Chelydridae) is found only in North  America. These animals are characterized by a long tail with  plates and a comparatively small shell system. There are either two or three species in this family depending up how one counts the Florida Snapping Turtle.

Turtle and Tortoise group (Order Chelonia) are among the most  primitive reptiles. They are egg-laying creatures characterized  by having four legs, a tail, and two shells each made up of many scales that are joined together. There are about two hundred and fifty species of turtles in the world. Carl  Ernst and Roger Barbour published a book entitled "Turtles of the World" by the Smithsonian Press in l989. This work covers all of the known species. The authors note that there are two hundred and fifty-seven species of living turtles. Many of these species are pictured and discussed here.

The following overview of the various families included in the Turtle Order is based on the aforementioned publication:

       Pelomedusidae       Side Necked        23  species
       Chelidae            Side Necked        36  species
       Kinosternidae       Mud and Musk       22  species
       Dermatemydidae      River Turtle        1  species
       Carettochelyidae    Pig Nose            1  species
       Trionychidae        Soft Shelled       22  species
       Dermochelyidae      Leatherback         1  species
       Cheloniidae         Sea Turtles         6  species
       Chelydridae         Snapping turtles    2  species
       Platysternidae      Big Headed          1
       Emydidae            Pond and Box       91  species
       Testudinidae        Tortoises          50  species
                                       256 total species

While the above counts are currently reliable, they will be impacted by findings as research continues. For example, the exact count of the species of tortoises in the Galapagos and placement of the Florida Snapping Turtle might change these counts.

Reptiles (Class Reptilia) are an ancient group of scaled  chordates. These scales may be permanently joined, as in the  turtles, or flexible, as in the snakes. Reptiles are land-based. Their eggs are laid on land and the young are air breathing.

Backboned Animals (Phylum Chordata) are the most advanced group of animals on earth. These animals are characterized by having a spinal cord or backbone. Most members have a clearly defined brain that controls the organism through a spinal cord. Fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals are in this phylum.

Currently, some taxonomists believe that the fish should be divided into two groups (sharks and regular fishes) and that there are some other primitive groups in the phylum such as hagfish or lampreys.

Animal Kingdom contains numerous organisms that feed on other animals or plants. Included in the animal kingdom are the lower marine invertebrates such as sponges and corals, the jointed legged animals such as insects and spiders, and the backboned animals such as fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.


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