Scientists have discovered a giant turtle that ruled the swamps of South America 10 million years ago. Scientists have uncovered the fossils of the giant turtle in Venezuela and Colombia. Named Stupendemys geographicus, it is the biggest turtle to ever exist on Earth.
It is seen that the turtle had a giant shell that was 10 feet long and weighed about 2,500 pounds. Scientists conducted a close study on the shells of these giants. These shells have bite marks on their surface which could possibly be the result of swamp predators like massive alligators. This shows that even very strong predators were unable to penetrate the shells.
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Also, studying the lower jaw fossils with shells shows us that males could have possibly had horns to protect themselves. Females lacked these horns whereas males might have used them to fight with other males. Furthermore, the jaws of these turtles also give us an insight into the diet of these giants. The diet is predicted to have been diverse – ranging from fishes, mollusks, smaller crocodiles, etc. Their strong lower jaws helped in crushing many hard objects, including seeds.
Background to the discovery
According to one of the paleontologists, Roger Wood first described the giant in 1976. He gave the name “Stupendemys,” owing to their large size, with geographicus to support the cause of National Geographic in supporting the fossil turtle research.
The excavation site where these turtles dwelled is a large desert now, but millions of years ago these were marshy swamp lands with a large biodiversity. This may explain the fact why these turtles were able to reach such a huge size. Also, this may help understand the modern-day relatives of the giant turtle. Although the Amazon River turtles are 100 times smaller than the giant, they both tend to have similar diets, which may help us solve mysteries.
Scientists also added that the reasons for the cause of extinction of these giants are still unknown. Habitat disruption and geographical changes by the Andes may be probable reasons for the cause of extinction. With this being the largest turtle shell ever discovered in the total phylogeny, scientists will hunt for more fossils in and around the American continent for similar fossils.
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