One of the most impressive things about this world is the vast array of different species that occupy it. While humans may be the only species with a defined culture and a true intelligence, there are many life forms here who have outlived us. One creature which has been around nearly sixteen million years is the alligator snapping turtle, which has been referred to by many as the “Dinosaur” of the turtles. It only lives in a very specific part of the northern Gulf of Mexico, and only recently has it been discovered to be three sub-species rather than one species.
Because the habitat these turtles choose to inhabit is very limited, any type of accident or disaster in that part of the Gulf of Mexico could spell the end for this proud species. They are an isolated species with no real connection between the turtles found in the rivers in Mississippi and the ones found nearer the Apalachicola. In between this is a large gap that means there is a significant isolation between the three sub-species of the alligator snapping turtle.
They used to be a rampant species but at one stage were commonly hunted and killed by humans. They have a low offspring survival rate which has led to an incredible drop in population over the years. Capable of weighing around 200 pounds they are powerful creatures but due to the cultivation in the past of these turtles, they are not nearly as many as they once were.
Many experts are putting their time and resources towards getting a stable and suitable protection system put together on the rivers they inhabit to ensure they are never endangered more than they already are. By protecting the habitats that they refuse to move out from, wildlife associations in the Gulf hope they can keep these turtles safe for the future and hopefully let them have a chance of growing their numbers further.
Fossils from this species have been found back from as far as sixteen million years, and they can live for up to one hundred years. It is the incredible size of the turtle that has drawn people to it in the past, with the shells likely used when they were regularly killed by humans. A key part of the ecosystem around them, they help keep the area clear of other predators and allow other creatures in the area to flourish when otherwise they may have struggled.