Extinct giant turtle had horned shell of up to three meters — ScienceDaily
The tropical area of South America is one of the world’s scorching spots when it comes to animal variety. The area’s extinct fauna is exclusive, as documented by fossils of giant rodents and crocodylians -including crocodiles, alligators, caimans and gavials — that inhabited what’s at this time a desert space in Venezuela. Five to ten million years in the past, this was a moist swampy area teeming with life. One of its inhabitants was Stupendemys geographicus, a turtle species first described within the mid-1970s.
Giant turtle 100 occasions heavier than its closest relative
Researchers of the University of Zurich (UZH) and fellow researchers from Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil have now reported distinctive specimens of the extinct turtle lately present in new places throughout Venezuela and Colombia. “The carapace of some Stupendemys individuals reached almost three meters, making it one of the largest, if not the largest turtle that ever existed,” says Marcelo Sánchez, director of the Paleontological Institute and Museum of UZH and head of the examine. The turtle had an estimated physique mass of 1,145 kg — virtually 100 occasions that of its closest dwelling relative, the big-headed Amazon river turtle.
Males carried horns on their carapace
In some people, the whole carapace confirmed a peculiar and sudden characteristic: horns. “The two shell types indicate that two sexes of Stupendemys existed — males with horned shells, and females with hornless shells,” concludes Sánchez. According to the paleobiologist, that is the primary time that sexual dimorphism within the kind of horned shells has been reported for any of the side-necked turtles, one of the 2 main teams of turtles world-wide.
Despite its super dimension, the turtle had pure enemies. In many areas, the prevalence of Stupendemys coincides with Purussaurus, the biggest caimans. This was most certainly a predator of the giant turtle, given not solely its dimension and dietary preferences, but in addition as inferred by chew marks and punctured bones in fossil carapaces of Stupendemys.
Turtle phylogeny totally revised
Since the scientists additionally found jaws and different skeleton elements of Stupendemys, they had been ready to totally revise the evolutionary relationships of this species throughout the turtle tree of life. “Based on studies of the turtle anatomy, we now know that some living turtles from the Amazon region are the closest living relatives,” says Sánchez. Furthermore, the brand new discoveries and the investigation of present fossils from Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela point out a a lot wider geographic distribution of Stupendemys than beforehand assumed. The animal lived throughout the entire of the northern half of South America.