Paleontologists from North Carolina State University (NCSU) have examined the turtle fossil found in 2005 in a Colombia coal mine. In 2005 the turtle fossil was given the name Carbonemys cofrinii, which means “coal turtle.”
Researchers say Carbonemys cofrinii belongs to a group of side-necked turtles known as pelomedusoides. The turtle is believed to have lived 60 million years ago and about five million years after the dinosaurs vanished.
According to a statement from the Paleontologists from North Carolina University the turtle fossil skull measures 24 cm, which is about the size of a regulation NFL football. The shell that was recovered nearby measures 172 cms, or about 5 feet 7 inches, long. That’s the same height as Edwin Cadena, the NCSU doctoral student who discovered the fossil.
“We had recovered smaller turtle specimens from the site. But after spending about four days working on uncovering the shell, I realized that this particular turtle was the biggest anyone had found in this area for this time period and it gave us the first evidence of giantism in freshwater turtles,” Edwin Cadena says.
“The environment seems to have been tropical based on fossil plants found at the site,” study researcher Dan Ksepka told LiveScience. “And the turtle appears to have been adapted to spending most of its time in the water, though coming ashore to lay eggs would be part of its life cycle.”
With the turtle’s size, the fossil shows that it would have had a massive, powerful jaw to enable it to eat almost anything from snails to smaller turtles and even crocodiles, the researchers said.
Study researcher Dan Ksepka, of North Carolina State University, said in a statement, “It’s like having one big snapping turtle living in the middle of a lake. That turtle survives because it has eaten all of the major competitors for resources.”
The turtle fossil findings are published online May 17, 2012 in the Journal of Systematic Paleontology.
Image Credit: Liz Bradford