Zoo Animals

Detroit Zoo - Mata Mata Turtle

Matamata turtle

Chelus fimbriatus

At the Detroit Zoo
The matamata turtle can be found inside the Holden Reptile Conservation Center, located near the middle of the Detroit Zoo. There, visitors can learn about the 70 different species (and approximately 180 individuals) of reptiles at the Zoo, one-fifth of which are considered threatened or endangered in the wild.


The matamata turtle’s carapace is rough and knobby. The head and neck are large and flat and covered with numerous protuberances, warts, skin fringes and ridges. Unlike most turtles, its jaws are fleshy and not hard.


Fun Facts

  • When fish that are attracted by the turtle's fringes of skin swim too close to the head, the matamata snaps its mouth shut; the water is slowly expelled, and the fish is swallowed whole.