Alligator snapping turtles (ASTs) are the largest species of freshwater turtle in the western hemisphere. In Texas these lurking leviathans inhabit the bayous, creeks, lakes and rivers from the Trinity River in Tarrant County and river systems eastward.  If ever there could be a ‘Texas-sized’ turtle, this is it. Adult females can weigh as much as 70 pounds while adult males in the wild can attain massive proportions of just over 200 pounds and total lengths (from snout to tail tip) of 5 feet!

Since 2018 we have focused on studying various populations of alligator snapping turtles in Texas. Our current study sites are in Cherokee, Hardin, Liberty and Tarrant counties. We’re also the first organization to encourage and utilize private citizen involvement to not only enhance the conservation of but the research efficacy necessary to better understand these amazing turtles. 

We have published on a wide range of topics pertaining to alligator snappers including urban populations (Munscher, et al. 2018), defensive behaviors (Franklin, et al. 2019), morphology (Franklin, et al. 2019), diet analysis (Franklin and Ricardez, 2021), human threats (Shook, et al., 2022), local ecological knowledge (Gordon, et al., 2022), diurnal behavior (Franklin, et al., 2023), the first documentation of reproduction in Texas (Franklin, et al., 2023), variation of tongue lure coloration (Glorioso, et al., 2022), age related cataracts and maximum documented size of females (Franklin, et al., 2021). 

Our research focus with this species includes population monitoring at all of our study sites and reproductive assessments of females by combining blood chemistry analysis with ultrasound diagnostics. 

We are permitted by Texas Parks and Wildlife to capture alligator snappers for the purpose of recording data, dietary analysis, obtaining blood and tissue samples, marking with an internal transponder and salvaging deceased specimens. Should you encounter the remains of an alligator snapping turtle in the wild we would like to know. The salvage of a deceased turtle is an important source of research material. 

 

 

 

 

Currently we are assisted by businesses, landowners, citizen scientists and skilled volunteers from the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Sea Life Aquarium in Grapevine, Dallas Zoo, the University of Houston at Clearlake, the Charlie Moorcroft Foundation and the Southwestern Center for Herpetological Research.

We are Texans enthusiastically proud of the rich biodiversity in our state. It is not only our pleasure to work with these amazing turtles but an honor. Your tax-deductible donation or purchase of merchandise goes entirely to the cost of our field work.  

 

                                                                          Texas Turtles’ AST publications (2009-present)

 

Franklin, C.J. 2018. Graptemys sabinensis (Sabine Map Turtle). Predation. Herpetological Review 49(1):107–108.

 

Franklin, C.J. and E.A.P. Catalan. 2009. Geographic distribution: Macrochelys temminckii (Alligator Snapping Turtle). Herpetological Review 40(1):110.

 

Franklin, C.J., A. Brinker, and V. Ricardez. 2018. Macrochelys temminckii (Western Alligator Snapping Turtle) – Defensive Behavior. Herpetological Review 49(3):528.

 

Franklin, C.J., V. Ricardez, N. Peterson, and M. Aldecoa. 2020. Macrochelys temminckii (Alligator Snapping Turtle) – Caudal Prehensility. Herpetological Review 51(3):578—579.

 

Franklin, C. J. and V. Ricardez. 2021. Macrochelys temminckii (Alligator Snapping Turtle) – Lenticular opacity. Herpetological Review 52(2):393.

 

Franklin, C.J., V. Ricardez, and S. Scibetta. 2021. Macrochelys temminckii (Alligator Snapping Turtle) – Diet. Herpetological Review 52(4):847. 

 

Munscher, E., J. Gray, A. Tuggle, D. B. Ligon, V. Gladkaya, C. Franklin, C. Drake, V. Ricardez, B. P. Butterfield, K. Norrid, and A. Walde. 2020. Discovery of an Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macrochelys temminckii) Population in Metropolitan Houston, Harris County, Texas. Urban Naturalist No. 32.


                                                                     Texas Turtle’s AST publications in review or in press

 

Franklin, C.J., V. Ricardez, S. Scibetta, D. Rosenbaum, and J.B. Grizzle.  In review. Diurnal Observations of Alligator Snapping Turtles (Macrochelys temminckii). Submitted for review to Southeastern Naturalist Macrochelys special issue. In review. 

 

Franklin, C.J., V. Ricardez, S. Scibetta, R. Belue, K. Sardinia, and A. White. In press. Macrochelys temminckii (Alligator Snapping Turtle) – Reproduction. Herpetological Review.

 

Glorioso, B.M., J.L. Carr, C.J. Franklin, M. Gordon, A. Johnson, E. Kessler, E. Munscher, L.S. Pearson, V. Ricardez, and Arron Tuggle. Accepted. Condition and Coloration of Lingual Lures of Alligator Snapping Turtles. Accepted to Southeastern Naturalist Macrochelys special issue.

 

Gordon, M., D.R. Bontrager, J. Watson, T. Corbett, C. Crawford, C.J. Franklin, B. Kirby, E. Munscher, V. Ricardez, and A. Tuggle. In review. Using Local Ecological Knowledge to Document Distribution and Temporal Patterns of Macrochelys temminckii in Texas. Submitted for review to Southeastern Naturalist Macrochelys special issue.

 

Shook, A.K., C.D. Battaglia, K.M. Enge, C.J. Franklin, J.C. Godwin, A.C. Johnson, E.J. Kessler, E. Munscher, K. Norrid, L. Pearson, V. Ricardez, D.J. Stevenson, T.M. Thomas, and J.L. Carr. In review. Direct and indirect anthropogenic threats to megafaunal chelydrid turtles, with a focus on the Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macrochelys temminckii). Submitted for review to Southeastern Naturalist Macrochelys special issue.

 

                                                              Texas Turtle’s AST presentations and outreach (non-peer reviewed)

 

Animal Planet. 2019. Brave the Wild: Searching For A Record Breaking Alligator Snapping Turtle In Texas. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfzuatb2JHU&t=471s

 

Brave Wilderness. 2020. Face Off with a Giant Turtle!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Srio_ncdiYk

 

Garcia, K., M. Gordon, E. Munscher, A. Tuggle, C.J. Franklin, V. Ricardez, and G. Guillen. 2022. Do Anthropogenic Stressors Affect Distribution of Alligator Snapping Turtles (Macrochelys temminckii) in Texas? Preliminary Study Design. Oral presentation to the 125th Annual Meeting of the Texas Academy of Science (Houston, Texas).