A turtle that was involved in the drugs trade has been given a new crime-free life at the New England Aquarium in Boston, USA.
Fluffy, a 45 lb Alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys temminckii), was previously a "guard" for a New York drug dealer, who used the turtle to protect his stash of illegal drugs.
The cantankerous turtle is now living in the New England Aquarium's new Killer Instincts exhibit, which is designed to educate the public about animals that are perceived to be the world s scariest.
A spokesman from the New England Aquarium told Practical Fishkeeping that the turtle was recovered from a drug raid in Long Island and was loaned to the Aquarium by a local organisation that deals with reptile-related problems for the State.
The Aquarium claims that an increasing number of drug dealers are using animals to protect their drug stashes.
The popular one here is the Pit bull, but big snakes, not always venomous ones, are also used. It s not common to see snapping turtles used.
"However, Fluffy has a lot of heavy armour plating, a natural biting reflex behaviour and an incredibly powerful bite, said the Aquarium.
YouTube video showing a juvenile Alligator snapping turtle.
Fearsome reputationAlligator snapping turtles, which can reach a size of over 90 kg/200 lbs and a length of nearly 81cm/32", have a fearsome reputation and an immensely powerful bite, which is easily capable of amputating any stray fingers that come within striking range.
However, it's fish and other turtles, rather than fingers, which form the bulk of the Alligator snapping turtle s natural diet.
The turtles tend to sit motionless for long periods during the day with their mouth open, while wiggling a tiny appendage on their tongue.
This vermiform (or worm-like) lure has evolved to function in a similar way to the esca of angler fishes and attracts prey fishes right into the predator's mouth, from where a reflex action allows the immensely powerful jaws to snap shut, crushing the prey and allowing it to be swallowed.
YouTube video showing the Alligator snapping turtle's vermiform lure.
By night the species scavenges on fish carcasses and aquatic vegetation, but it has also been known to consume snakes, rodents, other turtles and amphibians.
Some reports claim that the bite is powerful enough to snap a wooden broom handle in two " such strength is required for dealing with the hard shells of other turtles.
RangeThe Alligator snapping turtle, which is the largest freshwater turtle in North America, occurs mainly in southern US waters, particularly around Florida, Virginia and South Carolina.
The species is generally considered to be less aggressive than the slightly smaller Common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina).
Common snapping turtle. Picture by Goodparley, Creative Commons.
The Aquarium said that the latter species is sometimes found in the local area. You might see one crossing the road. They migrate short distances to lay eggs and they re slow to cross.
"People sometimes stop their cars to help them across the road. These can be 20-50 pounds and need a prod from a large stick to move them along.
These Common snapping turtles have a very long neck and can turn around and bite you if you grab hold of them. Alligator snapping turtles can t do this, and their shorter necks have a limited range, so you can pick them up more safely.
Alligator snapping turtles are prohibited in some US States. It endangered in several US states and is listed on the IUCN Red List as Threatened and on Appendix III of CITES, which controls commercial trade in the species.