Alligator Snapping Turtle Bite: Everything You Need To Know

Aryan Khanna
Sep 08, 2022 By Aryan Khanna
Originally Published on Apr 05, 2022
Edited by Daisha Capers
Fact-checked by Pradhanya Rao
By the end of this article, you will know more about the alligator snapping turtle bite force.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.9 Min

The alligator snapping turtle, or the Macrochelys temminckii, as it is scientifically known, is a turtle species native to the United States of America.

The alligator snapping turtle is among the largest and heaviest freshwater turtle species found, especially in northern America. The alligator snapping turtle and the common snapping turtle belong to different genera, with the common snapping turtles belonging to the genus Chelydra.

The alligator snapping turtle belongs to the genus Macrochelys of the family Chelydridae. Some parts of the United States, where there is an indigenous population of the alligator snapping turtle include the likes of east Texas, southern Indiana, southeastern Iowa, and many other places as well. Appearance-wise, alligator snapping turtles closely resemble dinosaurs of the primitive age. The alligator snapping turtle has a heavy, large head along with a thick and long shell. The alligator snapping turtle can easily be differentiated from the common snapping turtle, owing to the raised and spiked plates present on the alligator snapping turtle's carapace. Interestingly, these reptiles have eyes on the sides of their head. On average, these freshwater reptiles weigh around 155-175 lb (70-79 kg). Although some reports claim that in 1937, a 400 lb (181 kg) alligator snapping turtle was caught in Kansas in the '30s but there isn't much evidence to support the claim.

What does an alligator snapping turtle bite wound look like?

The alligator snapping turtle has an extremely powerful jaw bite force, and thus, should be handled with extreme care. Thankfully, there is no data of a human being losing their life due to the bite of an alligator snapping turtle, but there have been instances where humans have suffered from losing an entire finger and getting infected due to the massive force of the alligator snapping turtle's bite.

In 2016, there was a report in the United States where a 15-year-old boy had to lose his index finger of his left hand following an alligator snapping turtle's bite. The boy spotted the alligator snapper turtle near his home and lifted the animal owing to curiosity after looking at its unique spikes on the shell. Just like the common snapping turtle, the alligator snapping turtle is also very aggressive and suddenly bit the index finger of the boy with its jaw. The bite force of this animal was so powerful, that the boy lost his finger in one clean bite. Despite the report of such an incident and the natural aggressive behavior of the alligator snappers, it is a myth that this turtle species attacks humans. Previously, Alligator snappers have attacked humans only when they have been trifled with at first, and you wouldn't want to mess with a turtle whose jaws have an average bite force of 1000 lb (453.6 kg).

What is the alligator snapping turtle bite force?

Whether it is the alligator snapper or the common snapping turtle, both these turtles have jaws that can generate unreal pressure when their bite force is combined with their sharp beak. This animal has a bite force that is enough to break a wooden broomstick or the finger of a human being without any hassle.

When measured on a scale, the alligator snapping turtle has a bite force of almost 170 newtons, interestingly the common snapping turtle has a greater bite force. When we compare this bite force with that of humans, it is almost equal but it is the sharp beak of these wild animals which makes the main difference. If you combine the powerful bite force of 170-180 newtons with the sharp beak of the alligator snappers, the pressure produced is around 1,000 PSI (6894.8 kPa). In order to understand how powerful that is, keep in mind that the bite pressure of a tiger is around 1,050 PSI (7239.5). Thus the jaws of these animals are incredibly powerful and can break the bones of your hand without even breaking a sweat. Research has shown that it is the sharp beak of the alligator snapper which plays a pivotal role in its strong bite strength, and it also enables it to tear through flesh and kill its prey.

Even though the alligator snapper is native to North America, you could find it in other parts of the world as well, such as South Africa.

What is the difference between a common snapping turtle and an alligator snapping turtle?

Snapping turtles are unsurprisingly one of the most interesting parts of the wildlife of North America. Despite their looks and fairly small body size, these wild creatures can inflict great harm on humans. Interestingly, both the alligator snapping turtle and the common snapping turtle hail from the same family, Chelydridae, but both these turtle types have some notable differences. Let us take a look at some of the key points which differentiate the alligator snapping turtle from the common snapping turtle.

It is very easy to distinguish one from the other just by looking at it. The alligator snapping turtle is a lot bigger than the common snapping turtle and is probably one of the largest turtle species. Studies have shown that the alligator snapping turtle has an average body length of around 31 in (78.7 cm), whereas the common snapping turtle has an average body length of merely 9.8–18.5 in (25–47 cm). The second notable point of difference is the bodyweight of both turtle types. Alligator snapping turtles are not only significantly large but also heavy in comparison to common snapping turtles. It has been recorded that alligator snapping turtles living in the wild tend to have a bodyweight of around 175 lb (79 kg), whereas common snapping turtles weigh only around 35 lb (16 kg). Another physical difference between these turtle species is that alligator snapping turtles have their eyes on the side of their head but the common snapping turtles have forward placed eyes. There is also a considerable difference between both these turtles when it comes to their natural physical habitat. Though both species of snapping turtles are a part of the American wildlife, the alligator snapping turtle type is found in northern Illinois, Texas, and many other places. Whereas the common snapping turtle is usually located in Alberta and Nova Scotia in Canada, southern parts of Texas, Mexico, and other locations. Additionally, you can come across alligator snapping turtles only in a lake, river, or pond as they live only in freshwater habitats. However, common snapping turtles also live in freshwater areas such as swamps and salt marshes. When it comes to the lifespan of both these turtle types, alligator snappers have a massive lead over common snapping turtles as the former lives for around 45 years on average in the wild. Whereas the common snapping turtle has a smaller lifespan as they tend to live for only 30 years in the wild. Even though both turtles search for a similar kind of area to lay eggs, their breeding periods vary significantly. The alligator snapping turtle tends to breed from early to late spring, whereas the common snapping turtle mates from the months of April to November. During the breeding season, the alligator snapper lays as many as 50 eggs, but the common snapping turtle lays even more eggs on average as they produce around 80 eggs. Eggs of the smaller of the two species, the common snapping turtle, take a shorter amount of time to hatch in comparison to the time taken by eggs of an alligator snapper to hatch. Common snapping turtles take around 9-18 weeks to hatch, whereas the eggs of alligator snapping turtles hatch in around 14-20 weeks. When these turtles move around you may be able to see a difference in their heads as common snapping turtles have an oval shape, while alligator snappers have a triangle-shaped head. Moreover, you may also be able to see a difference between the shells on the back of these animals. The alligator snapping turtle has rough shells on its back with three ridges, while the common snapping turtle has a smoother shell. When it comes to the diet of both these turtle species, the alligator snapping turtle is primarily carnivorous, whereas the common snapping turtle tends to be omnivores and eats aquatic vegetation too on occasion.

Bite Force Of A Baby Alligator Snapping Turtle

The alligator snapping turtle has an average bite force of 170 newtons, while the common snapping turtle has a greater bite force of more than 200 newtons. Baby alligator snapping turtles too have a considerable biting force, although not as much as adults. At the same time, similar to how bites from an adult snapping turtle are enough to chop off the finger of a human, bites from a baby alligator snapping turtle aren't enough to completely eliminate the finger of a human being. Let us take a closer look at how strong are these bites made by a baby alligator snapping turtle.

Studies have concluded that biting is an integral part of snapping turtles. These creatures bite at a number of things and this is believed to be their way of surviving in the wild at large. Baby or juvenile alligator snapping turtles usually have a bite force of less than that of adults, but this keeps gradually increasing as they develop from being juvenile to adult snapping turtles. Despite the lesser amount of force in their bites, bites can lead to infection and thus one must not mess around with these turtles irrespective of how small they look.

We Want Your Photos!
We Want Your Photos!

We Want Your Photos!

Do you have a photo you are happy to share that would improve this article?
Email your photos

More for You


See All

Written by Aryan Khanna

Bachelor of Business Administration specializing in Marketing

Aryan Khanna picture

Aryan KhannaBachelor of Business Administration specializing in Marketing

A dedicated and hardworking content writer currently pursuing his Bachelor's in Management Studies from St. Xavier's University, Kolkata. Aryan aims to gain corporate exposure and enhance his skills while creating well-researched and engaging content that is SEO-friendly. Aryan is a talented individual who puts in the effort to overcome any obstacle in his way.

Read full bio >