Paleontologist have discovered a new turtle fossil that lived almost 60 million years ago. Named Puentemys mushaisaensis and was found in La Puente pit in Cerrejón Coal Mine in northwestern South America.
La Puente pit in Cerrejón Coal Mine in northwestern South America has been made famous for its other fossil finds, including the extinct Titanoboa cerrejonensis, two crocodile species, Cerrejonisuchus improcerus and Acherontisuchus guajiraensis, as well as two turtle species, the small-car-size Carbonemys cofrinii and the thick-shelled Cerrejonemys wayuunaiki.
The round turtle fossil discovery was made by Paleontologist Carlos Jaramillo’s group at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and colleagues at North Carolina State University and the Florida Museum of Natural History.
Cerrejon’s fossil reptiles all have been extremely large. This new species of fossil turtle is 5 feet in diameter and gives evidence that tropical reptiles were much larger than they are now. Fossils from Cerrejon have given opportunity to understand the origins of tropical biodiversity in the last 60 million years of Earth’s history.
Edwin Cadena, post-doctoral fellow at North Carolina State University and lead author of the paper, said that the turtle’s round shape could have discouraged predators from eating it, including the Titanoboa, and also aided in regulating its body temperature.
Having a low-domed shell shape would have helped increased the area of the body exposed to the sun, which results in helping the cold-blooded turtle warm.
The team’s turtle fossil discovery was published in the Journal of Paleontology.
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