Ancient giant turtle fossil was size of smart car
A turtle the size of a Smart car, with a shell large enough to double as a kiddie pool. Paleontologists from North Carolina State University have found just such a specimen -- the fossilized remains of a 60-million-year-old South American giant that lived in what is now Colombia, the Science Daily reported Thursday.
The turtle in question is Carbonemys cofrinii, which means "coal turtle," and is part of a group of side-necked turtles known as pelomedusoides, the report said. The fossil was named Carbonemys because it was discovered in 2005 in a coal mine that was part of northern Colombia's Cerrejon formation.
The specimen's skull measures 24cm, roughly the size of a regulation NFL football. The shell which was recovered nearby -- and is believed to belong to the same species -- measures 172 centimeters, or about 5 feet 7 inches, long, it said.
That's the same height as Edwin Cadena, the NC State doctoral student who discovered the fossil.
Cadena was quoted by the Science Daily as saying, "We had recovered smaller turtle specimens from the site. But after spending about four days working on uncovering the shell, I realized that this particular turtle was the biggest anyone had found in this area for this time period -- and it gave us the first evidence of giantism in freshwater turtles."
In addition to the turtle's huge size, the fossil also shows that this particular turtle had massive, powerful jaws that would have enabled the omnivore to eat anything nearby -- from mollusks to smaller turtles or even crocodiles.