Mata mata

Closeup of Chelus fimbriata.
Scientific Classification
Species:C. fimbriata
Binomial Name

Chelus fimbriata
Schneider, 1783

Testudo terrestris Fermin 1765:51 (nomen rejectum)
Testudo fimbriata Schneider 1783:349 (nomen protectum)
Testudo fimbria Gmelin 1789:1043 (nomen novum)
Testudo matamata Bruguière 1792:257
Testudo bispinosa Ruiz de Xelva in Daudin 1801:94
Chelys boulengerii Baur 1890b:968

Mata mata -- Chelus fimbriata Schneider, 1783

by Scott Thomson.

The mata mata is a large sedentary turtle that has a large triangular flattened head characterized with many tubercles and flaps of skin and a "horn" on its long and tubular snout. There are three barbels on the chin and four additional filamentous barbels at the upper jaw, which is neither hooked nor notched. The mata mata's brown or black oblong carapace can measure up to 45 cm (18 in) at adult age. The full adult weight is 15 kg (33 lb). The mata mata's plastron is reduced, narrowed, hingeless, shortened towards the front, and deeply notched at the rear with narrow bridges. These may be meant to allow the turtle to resemble a piece of bark, camouflaging it from possible predators. The plastron and bridges are cream to yellow or brown.

The head, neck, tail, and limbs are grayish brown on adults. The neck is longer than the vertebra under its carapace and is fringed with small skin flaps along both sides. Hatchlings show a pink to reddish tinge in the underside edge of their carapace and plastron that gradually disappear as they grow. Each forefoot has five webbed claws. Males have concave plastrons and longer, thicker tails than females.

Schneider, J.G. 1783. Allgemeine Naturgeschichte der Schildkröten, nebst einem Systematischen Verseichnisse der einzelnen Arten. Müller, Leipzig. xlviii + 364 p.