Biggest turtle that ever lived had 10 foot shell with horns

Fossils shed new light on car-sized turtle that once roamed South America

Also, the new discoveries of fossils from elsewhere in South America suggest it had a wider geographic distribution than previously thought. Upon closer inspection, the researchers determined that the horns on the shell only appeared in males. It was a humid swampy region teeming with life 5 to 10 million years ago, and one of its inhabitants was Stupendemys geographicus, a turtle species that scientists first described in the mid-1970s.

The Stupendemys geographicus was approximately the dimension of an automobile.

The region's extinct fauna is unique, as documented by fossils of giant rodents and crocodylians -including crocodiles, alligators, caimans and gavials - that inhabited what is today a desert area in Venezuela.

And if that doesn't blow your mind, get a load of the size of this thing - the shell alone spans three-metres, meaning the turtle weighed the equivalent of a saloon vehicle. Males had horn-like structures on their shells which may have protected them in combat, said Prof Edwin Cadena, of the University of Rosario in Bogota.

Coauthors of the study in Science Advances are from institutions in Brazil, Colombia, and Venezuela. They ate small animals, fish, snakes and vegetation including fruits and seeds.

At some point, that which had come to signify their success on earth, the conquering of their environment - their huge size - was no longer enough to keep them alive.

Fossils shed new light on car-sized turtle that once roamed South America

"The two shell types indicate that two sexes of Stupendemys existed - males with horned shells, and females with hornless shells", Marcelo Sánchez, director of the Paleontological Institute and Museum of University of Zurich in Switzerland, said in a news release. Habitat disruption and geographical changes by the Andes may be probable reasons for the cause of extinction.

The reptile's estimated body mass of 1,145 kg makes it nearly 100 times heavier than its closest living relative, the Amazon river turtle, the university said in a statement on Wednesday.

"It shows us that extremely large shells were not only exclusive of marine turtles but also occurred in freshwater turtles", Cadena said.

This wonderful shell makes the ancient creature one of the largest or even the largest turtle that ever existed on our planet, according to what the study senior researcher Marcelo Sánchez-Villagra.

Although the Amazon River turtles are 100 times smaller than the giant, they both tend to have similar diets, which may help us solve mysteries. "And knowing the evolutionary history of extant species is a key part of to formulate integral plans and educate for their conservation".

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