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Alligator snapping turtle.jpg
Alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Family: Chelydridae
Genus: Macrochelys
Gray, 1856[1]

Macrochelys is a genus of very large freshwater turtles in the family Chelydridae from Southeastern United States. Only a single extant species was recognized until a 2014 study divided it into several species.[2]

Extant species[edit]

Skeleton of an alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii) on display at the Museum of Osteology

Traditionally, only a single extant species was recognized, but following reviews two species are now recognized:[3][4]

A third species has been proposed,[5][6] but its validity is disputed.[7] Neither the Reptile Database[3] nor IUCN's Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group recognize it as separate from M. temminckii.[4]

Fossil history and extinct species[edit]

Unlike the family Chelydridae as a whole, the genus Macrochelys is exclusively North American. Hutchison (2008) considered genus Chelydrops to be a junior synonym of Macrochelys, and recombined its type species, Chelydrops stricta from the Miocene (early Barstovian) of Nebraska, as the (then) fourth species of Macrochelys.[8]

There are two species only known from fossil remains:


  1. ^ Rhodin, Anders G.J.; van Dijk, Peter Paul; Inverson, John B.; Shaffer, H. Bradley; Roger, Bour (2012-12-31). "Turtles of the world, 2012 update: Annotated checklist of taxonomy, synonymy, distribution and conservation status" (PDF). Chelonian Research Monographs. 5: 000.251. doi:10.3854/crm.5.000.checklist.v5.2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-01-04.
  2. ^ John R. Platt (April 17, 2014). "Alligator Snapping Turtles, the Dinosaurs of the Turtle World, Are Actually 3 at-Risk Species". Scientific American.
  3. ^ a b Reptile Database: Macrochelys. Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  4. ^ a b Turtle Taxonomy Working Group [Rhodin, A.G.J., Iverson, J.B., Bour, R. Fritz, U., Georges, A., Shaffer, H.B., and van Dijk, P.P.] (2017). "Turtles of the World: Annotated Checklist and Atlas of Taxonomy, Synonymy, Distribution, and Conservation Status (8th Ed.)." In: Rhodin, A.G.J., Iverson, J.B., van Dijk, P.P., Saumure, R.A., Buhlmann, K.A., Pritchard, P.C.H., and Mittermeier, R.A. (Eds.). "Conservation Biology of Freshwater Turtles and Tortoises: A Compilation Project of the IUCN/SSC Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group." Chelonian Research Monographs 7:1–292. doi:10.3854/crm.7.checklist.atlas.v8.2017.
  5. ^ Thomas, T., Granatosky, M. Bourque, J., Krysko, K., Moler, P., Gamble, T., Suarez, E., Leone, E., Enge, K. & Roman, J. (2014). "Taxonomic assessment of Alligator Snapping Turtles (Chelydridae: Macrochelys), with the description of two new species from the southeastern United States." Zootaxa 3786(2): 141–165.
  6. ^ Joshua E. Brown (April 24, 2014). "Research splits alligator snapping turtle, 'dinosaur of the turtle world,' into three species".
  7. ^ Folt, B.; and C. Guyer (2015). "Evaluating recent taxonomic changes for alligator snapping turtles (Testudines: Chelydridae)." Zootaxa 3947(3): 447–450.
  8. ^ J. Howard Hutchison (2008). "History of fossil Chelydridae". In A.C. Styermark; M.S. Finkler; R.J. Brooks (eds.). Biology of the Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 14–30.