Tech UPTechnologyThey find the remains of the largest turtle that...

They find the remains of the largest turtle that ever lived

A team of paleobiologists from the University of Zurich (Switzerland) has discovered extraordinary specimens of an extinct giant freshwater tortoise named Stupendemys Geographicus in Venezuela and Colombia. The turtle, 100 times heavier than its closest living relative , the Amazon river turtle ( Peltocephalus dumerilianus ) and twice the size of the largest living turtle, the leatherback turtle ( Dermochelys coriacea ), is the largest land turtle. great that ever existed. Its size rivals the famous Late Cretaceous sea turtle, Archelon (up to 4.6 m in length).


The remains suggest a form of sexual dimorphism that has not been seen before in any side-necked turtle and include the largest carapace (upper carapace) discovered so far. The shell of this turtle measures between 2.4 and almost 3 meters (like a car) and in males it had horns, a rare characteristic in turtles (a unique weapon located in the front part of the shell).

“The two types of shells indicate that there were two sexes of Stupendemys : males with horned shells and females with hornless shells,” say the experts.

His weight would be around 1,100 kilos , according to the researchers, who report their findings in the journal Science Advances . The species likely reached its colossal size thanks to the warm wetlands and lakes in its habitat, the authors explain.

A giant prehistoric tortoise

Stupendemy roamed the Earth 8 million years ago , “one of the largest turtles, if not the largest ever,” said lead researcher Marcelo Sánchez-Villagra, director of the University of Zurich Paleontological Institute and Museum in a statement.

First described in the 1970s, Stupendemys Geographicus has been one of many monsters found in tropical South America 5-10 million years ago. The tropical region of South America is one of the world’s hot spots when it comes to animal diversity . Hence, its extinct fauna is amazing: we have found giant rodents, crocodiles, alligators and gharials (a very strange and exotic type of crocodile), which inhabited what is currently a desert area in Venezuela.

Scientists have analyzed several remains, including the first lower jaw or the striking largest S. Geographicus shell ever found that came from a 1994 excavation in the Urumaco region of Venezuela, as well as new finds from the La desert. Tatacoa in Colombia.

Despite its enormous size, the great tortoise had natural enemies, as in many areas the appearance of Stupendemys also coincides with the emergence of Purussaurus , an extinct genus of giant caiman that was 11-13 meters long. It was likely a predator of the giant tortoise, given not only its size and dietary preferences, but also because of the bite marks and pierced bones found in the fossils of this giant land tortoise.

Referencia: E.-A. Cadena at Universidad del Rosario in Bogotá, Colombia el al., “The anatomy, paleobiology, and evolutionary relationships of the largest extinct side-necked turtle,” Science Advances (2020). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay4593 ,

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