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Impressive Growth in Alligator Snapping Turtles
Southwest Region, June 18, 2007
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Courtesy of USFWS, Tishomingo NFH, 6-12-07.  Year class 2005 alligator snapping turtle with view of lingual lure.
Courtesy of USFWS, Tishomingo NFH, 6-12-07. Year class 2005 alligator snapping turtle with view of lingual lure. - Photo Credit: n/a

Following compilation of extensive data recording on the alligator snapping turtles at the Tishomingo NFH, impressive growth in total body mass is being demonstrated in all year classes.

 

In the 2004 year class, the 30 turtles that were held in circular tanks in the holding house exhibited a growth rate of 10% in body weight, or 100 grams, in one month being fed fish regularly.

 

From 33 alligator snapping turtles of the same 2004 year class that had been kept in an earthen pond, an interesting comparison emerged.  These 33 turtles were brought into the holding house circular tanks and re-measured one month later.  From this measurement, their body weight had increased by 25%, or 143 grams.  This amazing growth is attributed to a regularly supplied food source as compared to their having to forage for food in the pond habitat.

 

When studying the 2005 year class of 152 alligator snapping turtles, a growth rate of 30% in body weight, or 50 grams, was measured.

 

In the 2006 year class of 19 turtles, a growth rate of 30% was also measured, which translates into 8 grams of body weight.  The difference in grams is attributed to the size difference in the year class.

 

From our studies, the annual growth curve demonstrates an exponential growth in late spring and summer months; in fall and winter growth stabilizes to little or no growth.

 

Controlled factors in the holding house environment for alligator snapping turtles includes the regularly supplied diet of fish and commercial turtle and fish feed; and, controlled air and water temperatures at a minimum of 40 degrees. Water depth in each circular tank varies, demonstrating no apparent effect on turtle growth.


Contact Info: Martin Valdez, 505-248-6599, martin_valdez@fws.gov



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