Fossil of Extinct Three Metre Giant Turtle found in South America

Reconstruction of the giant turtle Stupendemys geographicus: male (front) and female individual (left) swimming in freshwater. (Image: Jaime Chirinos)

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Paleobiologists from the University of Zurich (UZH) have discovered the fossils of an extinct giant freshwater turtle that weighed a ton and had a shell nearly three metres long in northern South America.

Moreover, the shell of male Stupendemys had horns – a rare feature in turtles.

The turtle’s impressive size may make it “one of the largest, if not the largest turtle that ever existed,” said lead researcher Marcelo Sánchez, director of the Paleontological Institute and Museum at UZH.

Venezuelan Palaeontologist Rodolfo Sánchez and a male carapace of Stupendemys geographicus, from Venezuela, found in 8 million years old deposits. (Image: Edwin Cadena)

The reptile’s estimated body mass of 1,145 kg makes it almost 100 times heavier than its closest living relative, the Amazon river turtle, the university said in a statement.

The giant turtles, from the species named Stupendemys geographicus first described in the 1970s, roamed a humid, swampy swath of the continent that was also home to giant rodents, crocodiles and alligators between five and ten million years ago.

The UZH scientists, along with researchers from Colombia, Venezuela and Brazil, unearthed specimens in Venezuela and Colombia that revealed a distinct feature in the male turtles: they had horns on their shell.

Read more via UZH

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