There are two extant species of the family Chelydridae: Chelydra serpentina, the Common Snapping Turtle, and its larger relative Macrochelys temminckii, the Alligator Snapping Turtle (although the monotypic Asian genus Platysternon has at times been included in this group). Both are endemic to the Western Hemisphere.

Fossil history

The Chelydridae have a long fossil history, with extinct species reported from North America, Asia and Europe, far outside its present range. The earliest described chelydrid is Emarginachelys cretacea, known from well preserved fossils from the Maastrichtian stage of the Late Cretaceous of Montana. Another well preserved fossil chelydrid is the Late Paleocene Protochelydra zangerli from North Dakota. The carapace of Protochelydra is higher domed than that of the Recent Chelydra, a trait conjectured to be associated with the coexistence of large, chelonivorous (i.e., turtle-eating) crocodilians. Another genus, Chelydropsis, contains several well known Eurasian chelydrid species that existed from the Oligocene to the Pliocene.

Classification of known genera


  • de Broin, F. 1969. Contribution a l’etude des cheloniens. Cheloniens continentaux du Cretace Superieur et du Tertiaire de France. Memoires du Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle. Vol. C, No. XXVIII
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