First alligator snapping turtle in decades spotted in Illinois This Oct. 15, 2016 photo shows a rare, wild alligator snapping turtle in a creek in Union County, Ill., the first found in the state since 1984. (Courtesy of Eva Kwiatek via AP)
First alligator snapping turtle in decades spotted in Illinois
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A scientist was searching for a young male alligator snapping turtle. It was put in a Southern Illinois creek at least a year ago. But he grabbed a 22-pound adult female instead. This raised hopes for those trying to protect a creature that hadn't been spotted in the area for three decades.

Chris Phillips made the discovery. He is an Illinois Natural History Survey herpetologist. The turtle he found was at least 18 years old. He called his discovery a "move in the right direction" in the effort to save the state-endangered species.

The discovery was chronicled in an article in this month's Southeastern Naturalist. It was co-authored by Ethan Kessler. He is a graduate student of natural resources and environmental sciences. He goes to the University of Illinois.

"It gives us hope that reproduction is happening," Kessler said.

Still, both Kessler and Phillips aren't quite sure what exactly the find says about these secretive creatures. The creatures have been around for millions of years. This particular turtle was living in Union County's Clear Creek. Scientists have been releasing turtles there because no wild alligator turtles had been found in Illinois since 1984.

"Maybe there is a hidden population we don't know about," Kessler said. He added that it's more likely that this turtle was just the last survivor of what was once a bigger population of turtles. Or, it could have been a hearty traveling turtle that somehow made its way up the Mississippi River.

However it got there, before it was found by Phillips it found at least one other turtle. The scientists know that because on the day Phillips reached down and grabbed the female turtle he thought he was reaching down for a smaller male turtle. It had been wearing a radio transmitter ever since scientists released it into the same creek at least a year ago.

The water is very murky. So Phillips had no way of knowing that he was grabbing the bigger turtle and not the smaller one.

The scientists wanted to track the female turtle as well, but can’t thanks to a failure in technology.

"We put a transmitter (on the larger turtle) but the battery died three months later," Phillips said. "She's in there but there is no way we're going to find her."

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is it called an “alligator snapping turtle?”
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (29)
  • rachelb-cel
    11/17/2017 - 12:29 p.m.

    To me, this article does a very good job at explaining the significance of the discovery, what scientists hope the discovery means, and what they actually know about it. The article is easy to follow and the topic is clear and easy to picture. It also makes the reader feel something about the discovery because of how state-endangered the article portrays the turtles as. The article also comes full circle when it tells what happened soon after. It does a good job answering all potential questions and doesn't leave many things unanswered.

  • jamariw-orv
    11/17/2017 - 01:53 p.m.

    because the alligator snapping turtle has thick shell with three (osteoderms) making them look like plated dinosaurs . They can be immediately distinguished from the common snapping turtle by the three rows of spikes and raised plates on the carapace, whereas the common snapping turtle has a smoother carapace.

  • stevent-pol1
    11/20/2017 - 10:23 a.m.

    It is called an alligator snapping turtle because it looks like a turtle that snaps and looks like an alligator

  • stevent-pol1
    11/20/2017 - 10:25 a.m.

    It was called an alligator snapping turtle because it is the largest freshwater turtle in North America and among the largest in the world.

  • lukes-pol1
    11/20/2017 - 11:23 a.m.

    They have been alive for a long time so and are snapping turtles

  • ReesePratt-del
    11/20/2017 - 05:02 p.m.

    Wow. They have a long life. It would be so cool if there was a hidden colony.I won't to see one. Who else???

  • sophiac-fra1
    11/27/2017 - 01:38 p.m.

    I thought that this was a very interesting article and I hope that the population of the alligator turtles soon increases.

  • 24crkutc
    11/28/2017 - 10:28 a.m.

    Why is it called a alligator snapping turtle? Because this turtle is really big. It also gets the name "snapping" because they snap and they have a beak kind of mouth. When the man was picking up this turtle he was thinking that he was picking up a tiny male but the water was so murky. So that is why they are called an alligator snapping turtle.

  • 24gjberg
    11/28/2017 - 10:29 a.m.

    Because the are stronger than other snapping turtle.
    I watched a video on them he got bit by one with protect stuff on it bit throw. How can you not see them for decade they are big creatures. They live for a lot of years.The teeth they have are big imagine getting bit by one.

  • 24amwalk
    11/28/2017 - 10:29 a.m.

    It is called that because it looks like a alligator and its like one. it hunts for other turtle. and its back looks like a alligators back

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