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Big-Headed Turtle: Platysternidae


Because the big-headed turtle is so rare, scientists have been able to learn about its diet only by observing captive, rather than wild, turtles. In captivity, the turtles eat meat, fish, and insects. The big-headed turtle is probably a meat-eater in the wild and may eat no plants at all. The turtle most likely gets most of its meals by gathering insects, mollusks, crustaceans, and other small invertebrates from the stream bottom, but it also may crawl out of the water onto shore and search for food on land. Invertebrates (in-VER-tehbrehts) are animals without backbones. Both mollusks (MAH-lusks) and crustaceans (krus-TAY-shuns) are invertebrates with shells. Mollusks, such as snails and clams, have an unsegmented body, and crustaceans, such as crayfish and shrimp, have a segmented body.


Big-headed turtles are the only species in the family Platysternidae. Scientists once believed these turtles were most closely related to New World pond turtles, including the painted turtles that are common in much of North America. That idea has faded, however. Now many people believe the closest relatives are the snapping turtles, which are in the family Chelydridae, or possibly the Eurasian pond and river turtles and neotropical wood turtles of the family Geoemydidae. A few scientists believe the big-headed turtles should be included in the snapping turtle family, but most argue that these turtles are different enough to be in a separate family.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesBig-Headed Turtle: Platysternidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, BIG-HEADED TURTLES AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS