Alligator Snapping Turtle was an Estimated 150 Years Old
Newport Aquarium’s oldest, and one of its most iconic animals, died Tuesday afternoon. Thunder, the aquarium’s 150 lb. alligator snapping turtle, and a mainstay in the Canyon Falls exhibit, was estimated to be 150 years old. She was an original resident to the aquarium when it opened in 1999. A necropsy (animal autopsy) has been performed, but the cause of death will not be known for several weeks.
Thunder was discovered in a Louisiana seafood market in the late 1990’s when it was legal to take alligator snapping turtles from the wild for commerce. She was rescued because of her size, and sent to a Missouri farm where Newport Aquarium found her. At the aquarium, she spent most of her time in exhibits near Gator Alley and most recently in Canyon Falls.
In an e-mail to cast members, the aquarium’s Executive Director, Eric Rose said, “While Thunder was here, thousands of cast members and millions of guests have enjoyed and connected with her, including myself and I’m sure nearly all of you.”
Watch Thunder Swimming in Her Canyon Falls Exhibit
The Alligator Snapping Turtle is given its name because of its powerful jaws and long, spring-like neck. Its distinct ridges on the shell are similar to the rough, ridged skin of an alligator. It is found primarily in the southeastern United States. They are opportunistic feeders, almost entirely carnivorous, relying on fish they catch by wiggling a piece of pink skin on their tongue that looks like a worm. They also feed on dead organisms they scavenge.
Here are photos of Thunder in her Canyon Falls exhibit
Please join us in remembering Thunder and the millions of smiles she’s brought to us over the last 17 years. Was your smile one of those? Share your memory in the comments section below.