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 61 different species (and approximately 131 individuals) of reptiles at the Zoo, approximately 52 percent of which are considered threatened or endangered in the wild.

Matamata turtles’ carapaces are rough and knobby. Their heads and necks are large and flat and covered with numerous protuberances, warts, skin fringes and ridges. Unlike most turtles, their 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 turtle snaps its mouth shut; the water is slowly expelled, and the fish is swallowed whole.