Fun Mata Mata Turtle Facts For Kids

Anusuya Mukherjee
Jan 12, 2023 By Anusuya Mukherjee
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Mata mata turtle facts about the species with highly sensitive sensory nerves
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.5 Min

Mata mata turtle [chelus fimbriata], are freshwater turtles that are found in South America. They prefer to be in slow-moving streams, stagnant pools, marsh areas, and swamps. They have a rough shell.

They have elongated necks with bumps in them. They have a triangular and flattened head which is brown or black in colour and has a wide mouth and a long snout. The appearance of these turtle's shells resembles a piece of bark, and its head resembles fallen leaves.

It is an aquatic species but it prefers to be in shallow waters. Each of its forefoot has five claws. Their hunting skills are that they camouflage perfectly.

A new species of mata mata turtle was also found and was named C.orinocensis. The underside of a matas’ shell is unpigmented and the shape of its shell is more oval than the Chelus fimbriata that has a dark underside and rectangular shell.

Chelus fimbriata is found in the Amazon and Mahury regions, whereas C.ornicosensis is found in Orinoco and Río Negro basins. Here are some amazing key facts about the mata mata turtle for your personal use.

Afterwards, spare some time and read our animal fact files on Florida softshell turtle facts and hawksbill sea turtle facts.

Mata Mata Turtle Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a mata mata turtle?

Mata mata turtle (chelus fimbriata) is a type of freshwater turtle that belongs to the chelidae family. Mata mata can be found in Amazon and in swamp areas or streams.

What class of animal does a mata mata turtle belong to?

Mata mata turtle (chelus fimbriata) belongs to the reptilia class in the animal kingdom.

How many mata mata turtles are there in the world?

There is no reliable information on the total number of mata mata turtle (chelus fimbriata) in the wild. But as this species has been categorised as a species which is nearly threatened as per IUCN, their population is declining and requires concerted conservation efforts.

Where does a mata mata turtle live?

Mata mata turtles live in Amazon and Orinoco basins in South America. Mata matas prefer to be in slow-moving streams, stagnant pools, marsh areas, and swamps.

Mata matas are mainly found in South America and Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia. It is a tropical turtle and prefers to reside at bottom of shallow rivers and prowl in muddy waters.

What is a mata mata turtle's habitat?

Mata mata turtles live in slow moving water, marshes, swamps, streams and stagnant pools. It is a tropical turtle. These turtles hardly ever come to the land and are mostly found in water.

The female mata turtles do come to the land to lay their eggs. Mata mata turtles are weak limbed, so it is difficult for them to swim. Mata matas stay at the bottom of the water and prowl in muddy water areas.

Who do mata mata turtles live with?

Mata mata turtles do not live in packs. They live near to each other in fresh and shallow waters. They are solitary creatures, so they like to have their space. But mata matas communicate with other animals of the similar species during their mating season.

How long does a mata mata turtle live?

Mata mata's lifespan is between 15-75 years. Mata matas have a long lifespan compared to some other reptiles. These turtles have a poor eyesight and hence are dependant on their tactile and auditory senses to find prey as well as sense predators.

How do they reproduce?

Mata mata turtles are solitary creatures, but they do communicate during the breeding season. The male mata mata turtles extend their limbs, lung their heads towards female mouth agape and move their lateral flaps on their heads. Nesting goes on from October through December.

Females construct their nest in vegetation near the edge of a forest. After the mating process is over, the female lays 12-28 eggs. After the incubation period of 200 days is completed, the eggs hatch and the juvenile mata mata turtles are born.

What is their conservation status?

Mata mata turtles are listed as nearly threatened under the IUCN Red List. Mata mata's population has been declining over the years due to exotic pet trade and now conservation efforts are essential for ensuring their survival.

Mata Mata Turtle Fun Facts

What do mata mata turtles look like?

Mata mata turtles have a rough shell with an elongated neck that has bumps in them. Their flat and triangular head has a wide mouth and a long snout. The appearance of these turtle's shells resembles a piece of bark, and its head resembles fallen leaves. Its head is brown or black.

Their bark-like shells are coated with algae. Their wedge-shaped head has tiny eyes. Each forefoot has five claws and there are skin flaps all over its head and neck. It is weak limed.

Both male and female mata mata turtles are of the same length, but males have longer tails and more concave plastrons than the females have. It is a large and incredible looking turtle.

Mata Mata Turtle

How cute are they?

Animal lovers find mata mata turtles very cute, even though they are unusual and exotic pets. Mata mata's affectionate nature and bizarre appearance makes them extremely adorable.

How do they communicate?

Mata mata turtles are solitary creatures. They don't communicate often but they do communicate during their breeding seasons. They extend their heads towards others while opening and shutting their mouths.

How big is a mata mata turtle?

The shell of mata mata turtles can grow to size of 16-20 in (40.64 - 50.8 cm) and they weigh around 38 lb (17.2 kg). They weigh equal to a four year old child. So, they are not the largest turtles but they can get quite big.

How fast can a mata mata turtle move?

Their skin flaps help them to move in nearby areas. Mata mata turtles use a particular method of catching their prey. Matas will move the prey into shallower areas of water.

A mata is able to grasp its prey in such a way that it can’t escape. Once surrounded, mata mata turtles will proceed to open their mouths and the prey goes into their mouth. So, they are quite fast while catching their prey.

How much does a mata mata turtle weigh?

Mata mata turtles weigh around 38 lb (17.2 kg). It is equal to the average weight of a four year old baby.

What are the male and female names of the species?

The male and female mata mata turtles are known as male mata mata turtles and female mata mata turtles.

What would you call a baby mata mata turtle?

A baby mata mata turtle is known as a hatchling because they hatch from eggshells.

What do they eat?

Mata mata turtles are carnivorous animals and it eats fishes and aquatic invertebrates. It uses the technique of camouflaging itself while preying on fishes. It also eats aquatic worms and insects. It has weak jaws, so it swallows its prey as a whole by creating a low pressure vacuum and sucking the prey into its mouth.

Are they poisonous?

No, mata mata turtles can not be poisonous. Mata mata turtles may look bizarre in appearance, but they are absolutely harmless to humans. However, the water they are held captive in can be of harm to humans as it is filled with harmful germs.

Would they make a good pet?

Mata mata turtles are unusual and exotic pets. They are active pets and do not get ill easily.

But mata mata turtles need really good care. However, keeping them captive can be harmful as they eat and sleep at the place where they leave their waste.

So the water can be dirty and full of germs. These turtles can get messy, so the water needs to be filtered and changed regularly. Also, the owners should avoid handling them.

When kept as pets, mata mata turtles have to be protected by domestic animals such as dogs and cats. Whenever mata mata turtles are kept as pets, the important measures to be taken care of include tank size, water filtration, water temperature, substrates, heat lamps and lighting.

Did you know...

Mata mata turtles may not appear dangerous, but they have a very fast, efficient, and unique way of catching their prey. They are dangerous to other aquatic invertebrates as they feed on them. They may appear bizarre, but mata mata turtles are harmless to humans.

Mata mata turtles are not as famous as other freshwater turtles but it is fancied by many animal lovers because of their interesting appearance and mannerisms. It is also known as mata-mata, mata mata and matamata. This turtle spends most of its time blending in its surroundings, barely moving and occasionally breathing.

Its average price range is from $200-$400. Most problems with mata matas rise with the poor quality of water they are living in. Unclean water or water with high pH can be harmful. They only eat live prey.

The mata mata turtle and its environment

Mata mata turtles are good at adapting and camouflaging in water. They cannot be spotted by other predators as they camouflage in water, looking like leaf litters. They are motionless in the water so that their prey doesn't spot them.

Discovery of the mata mata turtle

Mata mata turtles were first discovered by French naturalists. In 2020, it was reported that mata mata turtles had a split in population in Amazon and Orinoco basins. Although Mata is not as famous as other freshwater turtles, it is liked by turtle enthusiasts because of its interesting appearance.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these map turtle facts, and Russian tortoise facts.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our turtle shell coloring pages.

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Written by Anusuya Mukherjee

Bachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

Anusuya Mukherjee picture

Anusuya MukherjeeBachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

With a wealth of international experience spanning Europe, Africa, North America, and the Middle East, Anusuya brings a unique perspective to her work as a Content Assistant and Content Updating Coordinator. She holds a law degree from India and has practiced law in India and Kuwait. Anusuya is a fan of rap music and enjoys a good cup of coffee in her free time. Currently, she is working on her novel, "Mr. Ivory Merchant".

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