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Australo-American Side-Necked Turtles: Chelidae


Most members of this family eat meat or both meat and plants. The adult northern Australian snapping turtle may live only on vegetation, including algae (AL-jee), which are tiny plantlike growths that live in water, and the leaves and fruits of waterside trees they find during the dry season. The meat eaters may feed on worms, insects, fishes, and frogs. Some also eat mollusks, such as clams; crustaceans (krus-TAY-shuns), such as shrimp; or dead animal matter. Many of the mollusk eaters have large, broad jaws that they use to crush their prey's shell. Other species, particularly those that dine on fishes, have long necks that burst through the water when they are going after prey. As the turtle opens its mouth, both water and prey rush in. The turtle then spits out the water and swallows the animal.


Australo-American side-necked turtles, both living animals and fossils (FAH-suhls), or remains of animals that lived long ago, are found in Australia and South America, but nowhere else. The large gap in their geographic range makes scientists believe that the South American and Australian species are related through a common ancestor that lived long ago in Earth's history, when the two continents were still linked together by what is now Antarctica. This common ancestor, which spread across Antarctica, could have migrated, or traveled, into the areas that eventually split off to become South America and Australia.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesAustralo-American Side-Necked Turtles: Chelidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Matamata (chelus Fimbriatus): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, AUSTRALO-AMERICAN SIDE-NECKED TURTLES AND PEOPLE