The fossilized remains of a turtle the size of a small car were found in northeastern Columbia — the largest of their kind.
Carbonemys cofrinii was a member of a group of side-necked turtles known as pelomedusoides. A massive shell was discovered nearby and scientists surmise that it belonged to the same animal. This “coal turtle” dates back 60 million years — 5 million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs, when gigantism was a prominent characteristic found in species at that time.
Not only was this turtle gargantuan, boasting a skull the size of a football and a shell measuring more than five feet in length, it also had incredibly powerful jaws, allowing it to crunch down on just about anything — including crocodiles.
A number of factors allowed for the development of a turtle this size, including a plentiful food supply, limited predators, and warm temperatures. Warm weather allows for ectotherms to efficiently maintain their core body temperature without a lot of energy expenditure.
While crocodiles would have naturally preyed on side-necked turtles of average size, the tables were turned in the area where this massive snapping turtle presided. No other turtle remains of this size were found — pointing to the monster’s expansive range.
“It’s like having one big snapping turtle living in the middle of a lake,” study researcher Dan Ksepka, of North Carolina State University, said in a statement. “That turtle survives because it has eaten all of the major competitors for resources.”
The remains were found in 2005 in what is present-day Columbia. The complete findings are published in the Journal of Systematic Paleontology.