Roughly 5 to 10 million years ago, giant turtles that would have dwarfed humans, roamed in the freshwater swamps of South America. Researchers have discovered the shells of these giant turtles. It is believed that these turtles' shells could reach an impressive length of 10 feet and weigh a whopping 2,500 pounds.
After studying the shells of Stupendemys Geographicus, the scientific name of these gigantic turtles, and their lower jaw fossils, researchers have deduced that these turtles had horned shells which they most likely used to protect their skulls.
Bite marks on the shells have also revealed that despite their massive size, they were attacked by predators like a giant alligator. Most recently, shells of these giant turtles were discovered in Venezuela and Colombia.
Reports indicate that these giant turtles were first described by palaeontologist Roger Wood in 1976. He later named them Stupendemys due to its large size and geographics in recognition to the support provided by National Geographic Society in turtle research.
Apart from the massive size of the turtles, the new fossils discovered in Venezuela and Colombia also reveal details about the horns of the shells. The horns were close to the turtle's neck and protected their skulls during fights with other giant turtles. However, the females of the species did not have horns on their shell.
Edwin Cadena, study author, geologist and vertebrate palaeontologist at Del Rosario University in Colombia, said that the discovery of the lower jaw was a very important clue and revealed more about the diet of these creatures. According to reports, the giant turtles ate a diverse range of fish, crocodiles, snakes and molluscs, and were able to crush open seeds with their massive lower jawbones.
The researchers can not exactly pinpoint the cause for the extinction of these giant turtles, but they believe that their habitat was disturbed when the Andes mountains rose and separated the Amazon, Orinoco and Magdalena rivers.
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