Oct 15, 2008

Common Snapper vs Alligator Snapper

John took this photo of a snapping turtle at Peebles Island State Park, not far from his home in Troy, NY, US.

There are four distinct species of Chelydra (snapping turtles). The Northern common snapper, the Florida snapper, the Mexican snapper, and the Ecuadorian snapper. But wait, you say, what about the alligator snapping turtle? Ah, let us explore that question.


















The alligator snapping turtle doesn't belong to the the family of Chelydridae--they belong to the Macroclemys family. The snapper above is the Northern common snapper (Chelydra serpentina serpentina), the snapper you're most likely to encounter in the US. Here's a photo so you can tell the difference (common on the left, alligator on the right):



















The alligator snapper (Macroclemys temmincki) has a ridged shell, much more of a beak, and they are the only ones with that worm-shaped lure of a tongue. You see, common snappers dine on carrion (one site even says that some police departments use their carrion-sniffing skills to find corpses, but I need corroboration). But the alligator snapper uses its tongue to lure live fish into its beak.

We've got something of a 'Frodo Conundrum' going on here. The alligator snapper seems fouler (in appearance), but has a diet many humans would be fine with. The common snapper seems fairer, but eats decaying flesh. Frodo decided Aragorn was a good guy because he thought the Enemy would employ someone who looked fairer but seemed fouler. Does this mean he would choose the alligator snapper? Though, Frodo didn't factor in Aragorn's diet when he decided to leave with him...

...wow. I apologize for that geek tangent. I'll sign off now.

Thanks for the snapper, John.

10 comments:

Carrie said...

That was pretty interesting.

Flartus said...

I love the Frodo conundrum tangent, but that's only gonna work for those who have read the book. Movie fans may be confused, because the Aragorn therein was neither foul nor fair...he was fiiiiine. Woot!

niner said...

I approve this post/thread.

Turtles + Aragorn = happy

Wendy said...

The turtles were interesting until my brain got sidetracked with mental images of Aragorn - after that your conundrum simply wouldn't gel for me, sorry! :D

Anonymous said...

But the real conundrum is which turtle contains the iocane powder.

Raging Wombat said...

Both turtles contain the iocane powder, of course.

Anonymous said...

Then I hope you spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.

Raging Wombat said...

In Australia, yes.

Anonymous said...

:o)

Vanessa said...

They are both adorable. I have met an enormous snapping turtle - I had to help him off the road and he was not cooperating.
He just didn't understand that I was there to help. I managed to get him to the side, but almost lost my toes when I misjudged how long their necks are compared to other turtles.
My mistake. :)