Scientists have revealed on February 12 that they have unearthed new fossils of the turtle, called Stupendemys geographicus, in Colombia’s Tatacoa Desert and Venezuela’s Urumaco region for the first time, according to the reports. It gave them a brief understanding of the big reptile measuring 13 feet (4 meters) long and 1.25 tons in weight. It is believed to be one of the largest turtles that lived in the lakes and rivers of Northern South America from about 13 million years ago to 7 million years ago. Stupendemys males, unlike the females, have strong front-facing horns on both sides of the shell located close to their neck.
Researchers have detected deep scars in the fossils which indicates that these horns may have been used for fighting with other Stupendemys males over mates or territory. According to paleontologist Edwin Cadena of the Universidad del Rosario in Bogota, who led the research published in the journal Science Advances said that fighting generally occurs among certain turtles alive today, particularly between the male turtles. Stupendemys is considered to be the second largest turtle, behind seagoing Archelon, which lived roughly 70 million years ago at the end of the age of the dinosaur and reached about 15 feet (4.6 meters) in length.
The first Stupendemys fossils were discovered in 1970 but a lot of mysteries remain unsolved about the animal.
Cadena added that its diet included small animals like fishes, caimans, snakes as well as mollusks and vegetation like fruits and seeds. Stupendemys means “stupendous turtle” which inhabited a colossal wetland spanning over Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil and Peru before the Amazon and Orinoco rivers were formed. 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.