Snapping turtle

Snapping turtles are remarkable swimmers. 

Not all animals need teeth to eat. Here is a quiz about four of the Chesapeake watershed’s animals have adapted to capture and eat their prey. Match the animal to the correct statement. Answers are below.

Blue crab

Common merganser

Common snapping turtle

Great horned owl

Red-bellied woodpecker

1. I have a strong jaw and sharp, beaklike mouth that helps me catch my food. If you bother me, I will bite you, and it will hurt — A LOT! So, leave me be. If you think that I’m bad, one of my cousins outside of the Bay watershed can bite off human fingers.

2. Good thing I have a huge claw to grab and shred my prey because my mouth parts go way back — near the opening of my esophagus, or food pipe. These mouth parts are arranged in pairs. The three outermost pairs hold my food. The innermost pair push my food into the esophagus.

3. Call me Sawbill. A lot of people already do. My long, jagged bill helps me hold onto my fishy prey before swallowing it. 

4. Don’t try this at home, kids. I usually swallow my prey — whatever I can get my talons on — whole, then puke out a pellet containing the tidbits —usually bones & teeth — that my stomach can’t digest.

5. Here’s one way to tell the difference between the male and female of this species If we stick out our tongue, or you watch how we eat, you can probably tell who is who. One of us has a wider, longer tongue, the better to reach deeper into a tree’s cracks or crevices to pull out the insects hidden there. The one with the shorter, skinnier tongue forages for mostly on tree limbs.


1. Common snapping turtle; 2. Blue crab; 3. Common merganser; 4. Great horned owl; 5. The male red-bellied woodpecker has the wider, longer tongue.

Kathleen Gaskell is the Bay Journal's copy and layout editor and author of the Chesapeake Challenge. Contact Kathleen at

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