Car-sized turtle fossils unearthed

James Marshall
February 13, 2020

Since then, only parts of the tank of this type have been found in South America, with for which the researchers classify the animals as huge, but could hardly estimate their exact dimensions.

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

It had to do with the dimension as well as weight of a cocktail lounge auto as well as populated a substantial marsh throughout north South America prior to the Amazon as well as Orinoco rivers were developed.

Thanks to the recovery and analysis of several exceptionally preserved Stupendemys geographicus specimens, scientists have gained new insights into the physiology and anatomy of the giant turtle.

Paleontologists excavating one of the specimens of Stupendemys geographicus at the top of a cliff in northern Venezuela. Credit: Produced by Rio Verde for Edwin Cadena.

A turtle unlike anything alive today once roamed what is now a desert in Venezuela.

Stupendemys was first discovered in the mid-1970s, but an worldwide team of researchers from Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, and Switzerland, has now reported exceptionally well-preserved specimens of the extinct turtle - in the process - and we now know that this turtle was much more interesting than initially thought.

For one, Stupendemys was huge. Scientists estimate that the turtle could weigh as much as 1,145 kg - that's nearly 100 times more than its closest living relative, the big-headed Amazon river turtle (Peltocephalus dumerilianus).

In some individuals, the complete carapace showed a peculiar and unexpected feature: horns. Stupendemys males, unlike the females, have strong front-facing horns on both sides of the shell located close to their neck.

According to Marcelo Sánchez, director of the Paleontological Institute and Museum at the University of Zurich, this indicates that two sexes of the creature existed - with males having horned shells and females having hornless ones.

Despite its enormous size, Stupendemys wasn't safe in the Venezuelan swamps. Among those prehistoric predators was the caiman Purussaurus, which measured 11 metres (36 feet) long, and the slightly smaller Gryposuchus, which was 10 metres (33 feet) long. Since the giant tortoises swallow very large fruits and their seeds could be excreted from some distance away, Stupendemys geographicus probably had an important distribution role in the ecosystem.

The new research provided scientists an improved understanding of the species' position within the turtle family tree.

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