OutdoorHub Editor: Keenan Crow 08.27.20
Florida wildlife biologists last week were greeted with a monster surprise after checking traps they had previously set in the New River, a 31-mile-long tributary of the Santa Fe River, north of Gainesville. A 100-pound Suwannee alligator snapping turtle, which is essentially a dinosaur, was among three massive reptiles wrangled by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Friday.
The research crew also captured a 46-pound female and a 64-pound male.
According to a FWC Facebook post, the New River is a “blackwater stream with low biological productivity, so finding a large turtle in such a small stream is unusual.”
The turtles – which appear to be straight out of a Jurassic Park movie – are a newly discovered species called the Suwannee alligator snapping turtle, which the FWC helped describe back in 2014 also known as Macrochelys suwanniensis, the agency explains.
“The alligator snapping turtle was considered a single, wide-ranging species that extended from the Suwannee River drainage west into Texas,” read the FWC post. “Everyone agrees that the Suwannee species is distinct. The Suwannee alligator snapping turtle has been isolated for at least 5.5 million years, during which time it has undergone sufficient evolutionary changes to differentiate it from other alligator snapping turtles.”
A report from the Florida Natural Areas Inventory research center at Florida State University states this particular species of alligator snapping turtle can reach “immense proportions,” with adult males reaching as big as two and a half feet long and weighing more than 200 pounds!
They can also live up to around 100 years old.
The FWC added they have been collaborating with other researchers in Florida and Georgia to “document the distribution and relative abundance of this state threatened species.”