Shell shocker: Prehsitoric armoured turtle shell found weighing more than a tonne

  • Shell shocker: Prehsitoric armoured turtle shell found weighing more than a tonne

Shell shocker: Prehsitoric armoured turtle shell found weighing more than a tonne

Artist impression of a male Stupendemys geographicus with horns on its carapace and a female individual (left) swimming in freshwater.

Fossils of a turtle the size of a auto have been unearthed in what is now northern South America.

Colombian and Venezuelan paleontologists work together during the excavation of the giant turtle Stupendemys geographicus in northern Venezuela.

Stupendemys was unearthed at an animal graveyard known as the La Venta archaeological site in the Tatacoa Desert of Colombia.

The Stupendemys geographicus was approximately the dimension of an automobile.

At the time of its existence, South America was a "lost world" of freakish oversized creatures - including enormous rats and alligators. The alternative hypothesis of the South American researchers is therefore that each of them could have been males who could have fought against their rivals with such bullhorns. Credit: Produced by Rio Verde for Edwin Cadena.

For one, Stupendemys was huge. Because crocodiles up to ten meters long lived in the same waters at the time, only large turtles could survive their attacks, the researchers suspect.

"Based on studies of the turtle anatomy, we now know that some living turtles from the Amazon region are the closest living relatives", Sánchez said.

In addition to the record size, the research team also found another Peculiarity of the extinct turtle species: From the shell of Stupendemys geographicus, two roughly grow to the right and left of the opening from which the turtle sticks its head. centimeters long horns to the front. This is the first time that sexual dimorphism in the form of horned shells has been reported in any side-necked turtle (any species of turtle belonging to the families Chelidae, Pelomedusidae, and Podocnemididae).

"The two shell types indicate that two sexes of Stupendemys existed - males with horned shells and females with hornless shells", Sanchez said in a news release from the university. It shared the environment with giant crocodilians, including the 11m-long caiman Purussaurus and the 10m-long gavial Gryposuchus.

Palaeontologist Rodolfo Sánchez and a male carapace of Stupendemys geographicus, from Venezuela, found in 8 million-year-old deposits.

The discoveries, including of jaws and other skeletal parts, have allowed the scientists to completely revise the species' tree of life and expand the turtle's habitat to a much wider geographic region than previously thought to cover the entire northern part of South America.