Giant Turtle Ate Crocodiles for Dinner, Scientists Say

Giant turtles, the size of an average car, roamed the rivers of Colombia snacking on animals 60-million years ago - including crocodiles.

Paleontologists from North Carolina State University have found the fossilized remains of the South American giant. Scientists say the turtle rocked a shell the size of two kiddie pools, as a matter of fact, the shell measures about 5 feet 7 inches long, or the same height as the NC state doctoral student who discovered the fossil.

“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,” said Cadena.

The shear size of the beast allowed for it to use its powerful jaws to eat anything in sight - including crocodiles, researchers say.

The giant turtle was originally discovered in a Colombian coal mine in 2005 and is known formally as Carbonemys cofrinii, which means "coal turtle." Paleontologists say it is part of a group of side-necked turtles known as pelomedusoides.

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So far there has only been one turtle recovered at this size, but Dr. Dan Ksepka, NC paleontologist and research associate at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, believes this is expected because a turtle this size would need a large amount of territory.

“It’s like having one big snapping turtle living in the middle of a lake,” says Ksepka, co-author of the paper describing the find. “That turtle survives because it has eaten all of the major competitors for resources. We found many bite-marked shells at this site that show crocodilians preyed on side-necked turtles. None would have bothered an adult Carbonemys, though – in fact smaller crocs would have been easy prey for this behemoth.”

The giant turtle appeared five million years after the dinosaurs dissappeared. The paleontologists, whose findings appear in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, believe it's "a combination of changes in the ecosystem, including fewer predators, a larger habitat area, plentiful food supply and climate changes, worked together to allow these giant species to survive."

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