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Meet the Matamata

When we last left Darren Naish of Tetrapod Zoology, he was analyzing a famous crytpozoological photograph, purported to be an undiscovered species of big cat, or perhaps the last surviving member of a Tasmanian cat-like marsupial. Of course, Naish generally prefers to write about strange and superlative animals that actually exist (or did at one point). In that vein, Naish has added to his series on the matamata, a river turtle with a shovel-shaped head, long, thick neck and a snorkel for a nose. Previous editions of the series focused on the matamata’s evolutionary history and unusual anatomy; now we finally get to see how the turtle makes use of its unique gifts in catching prey. Check out the video in “Turtles that suck, turtles that blow” to watch a matamata slurp up an unsuspecting fish. The video is in super-slo-mo; it has to be, as the whole process takes less than a tenth of a second.

Turtles that suck, turtles that blow (matamatas part IV)

Tetrapod ZoologyAugust 23, 2010

“Once the prey is within range, the Matamata engages in dynamic suction-feeding: a feeding Matamata gapes its jaws really wide (opening them to an angle of about 80°), and rapidly expands its throat to suck in a huge quantity of water – hopefully containing the prey.”

“Adaptation perfected” (possibly) in a turtle’s head (matamatas part III)

Tetrapod ZoologyJuly 30, 2010

“Some authors have described the skull as ‘arrow-shaped’: the snout is pointed, and the skull as a whole is flattened and light due both to reduction or loss of some elements and to relatively small muscles. The head can thus be thrown forward at great speed.”

The familiar Matamata and its long, fat neck (matamatas part II)

Tetrapod ZoologyJuly 26, 2010

“It’s one of the strangest tetrapods on the planet, and there’s so much to say about it that the previous article ended up being nothing more than the briefest of introductions.”

Matamata: turtle-y awesome to the extreme

Tetrapod ZoologyJune 24, 2010

“This proboscis – superficially similar to that seen in softshell turtles – allows the animal to reach the surface when submerged, and there are lots of photos and paintings that show matamatas engaging in this behaviour.”