Experts from the University of Florida (UF) Florida Museum of Natural History (FMNH) announce the discovery of a giant turtle species that was previously unknown to science. The creature was discovered in the same mine that revealed the famous Titanoboa.
The latter was the world's largest known snake, reaching lengths of between 12 to 15 meters (40 to 50 feet), and a body thickness of around 1 meter (3.3 feet). Experts estimate that Titanoboa weighed around 1,135 kilograms (2,500 pounds).
The fossilized fragments of the turtle appear to indicate that the animal could reach lengths of up to 2.4 meters (8 feet). At such an impressive size, it's doubtful that Titanoboa ever feasted on this creature.
Details of the animal's remnants were published in the latest online issue of the esteemed scientific Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. FMNH experts worked with colleagues from the North Carolina State University and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute on this study.
The team believes that the data they obtain by analyzing the newly found turtle species could be used to refine climate models seeking to predict how the world will react to additional warming and change.
Dating of the fossils revealed that the reptile lived around 60 million years ago, around the same time as the Titanoboa. The turtle is now known as Carbonemys cofrinii, after the mine where it was dug up.
“At that size, I would imagine that it was swimming around without too much fear. The only animals it probably would've had to worry about were the dyrosaurids (ancient crocodile relatives) – we have turtle shells from the same place with bite marks on them,” Jonathan Bloch explains.
The expert, a coauthor of the new study, holds an appointment as an associate curator of vertebrate paleontology at FMNH. The lead author of the paper was former UF student Edwin Cadena, currently a PhD student at NCSU, Astrobiology Magazine
“The tropics are a very biodiverse region on the planet today, so we're very interested in terms of conservation and our own survival. Tropical ecosystems are very important, and if you want to understand the region, you have to understand its history, especially in terms of climate change,” Bloch concludes.