Researchers have discovered the largest turtle to ever live, Stupendemys geographicus, roamed the ancient seas in greater ranges than previously believed, according to a new study.
Fossilized remains of the jaw and other skeleton parts were recently discovered in Venezuela and Colombia, according to a statement from the University of Zurich. The giant reptile, which had a shell that reached nearly 8 feet in length, was first discovered in the 1970s and is believed to have lived between 5 and 10 million years ago across the entire northern part of South America.
The massive reptile had a shell that measured 8 feet in length and could have supported a turtle that weighed more than 2,500 pounds, the researchers noted. At that size, it is nearly 100 times the size of the closest living relative, the Amazon river turtle, and twice the size of the largest turtle today, the marine leatherback, Cadena added. Marine leatherback turtles can weigh between 550 and 1,150 pounds.
In addition to having a giant shell, the males of the ancient species had horn-like shells at the front of the upper shell, a feature that Cadena said may have been used for defense. “This is a feature that may have served to protect their massive skulls when engaged in combat with other males,” Cadena said.