SREL Reprint #2071





Stomach Contents of Commercially Harvested Adult Alligator Snapping Turtles, Macroclemys temminckii


1U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Habitat Conservation Plan Program, 3773 Martin Way E., C- 101, Olympia, Washington 98501 USA [Fax: 360-534-9331; E-mail:;

2Univervity of Georgia, Savannah River Ecology Laboratory P.O. Drawer E, Aiken, South Carolina 29802 USA [E-mail:];

3National Biological Service, Palm Springs Field Station, Midcontinent Ecological Science Center, 63500 Garnet Avenue, P.O. Box 2000, North Palm Springs, California 92258-2000 USA []

Studies of diet can provide insight into the behavior and habitat selection of a species. Individual growth rates, health, movement patterns, habitat preferences, and longevity are some factors that are strongly influenced by diet. For rare or declining species, diet data may be important for developing effective management strategies and identifying changes in natural systems.

The alligator snapping turtle, Macroclemys temminckii, is the largest freshwater turtle in North America (Ernst et al., 1994) and is confined to drainage systems along the Gulf Coast of the United States (Pritchard, 1989). It ranges west to the San Antonio River in Texas, east to the Suwannee River in Florida, and north in the Mississippi River system to central Illinois (Lovich, 1993). Macroclemys has historically been an important part of the culture and cuisine of the southeastern United States and is a common inhabitant of its wetlands. Exploitation of the meat of Macroclemys has caused a steep population decline in recent times (Pritchard, 1989; Ernst et al., 1994; Sloan and Lovich, 1995) and the species is currently a candidate for protection under the US Federal Endangered Species Act.

Habitats occupied by Macroclemys are usually highly productive, rich in organic matter, and possess a great diversity of potential food items. Habitats occupied by adults include freshwater lakes, rivers, canals, bayous, swamps with permanent water, and brackish coastal areas (Jackson and Ross, 1971; George, 1987; Sloan and Taylor, 1987; Dundee and Rossman, 1989).

SREL Reprint #2071

Sloan, K.N., K.A. Buhlmann, and J.E. Lovich. 1996. Stomach contents of commercially harvested adult alligator snapping turtles, Macroclemys temminckii. Chelonian Conservation and Biology 2:96-99.


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