Giant freshwater turtle discovered in South America

An artist

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An artist's conception of the giant turtle Stupendemys geographicus: male (front) and female (left) swimming in freshwater.
  • The colossal, long-extinct beast lived 5 to 10 million years ago.
  • The freshwater turtle was about 100 times larger than its closest living relative today.
  • The turtle roamed present-day Venezuela and Colombia during the late Miocene Epoch.

Fossils of a giant turtle that was as big as a car have been discovered in South America, scientists report in a new study published this week.

It’s “one of the largest, if not the largest turtle that ever existed,” said study lead author Marcelo Sánchez, a paleontologist at the University of Zurich, in a statement.

The colossal, long-extinct beast lived 5 to 10 million years ago and measured at 9 1/2 feet, roughly the size and shape of a mid-sized car.

Known by the Latin name Stupendemys geographicus, the freshwater turtle was about 100 times larger than its closest living relative today, the big-headed Amazon river turtle. It had a body mass of about 2,500 pounds.

Fossils indicate that the male of the species had a horned shell, while the female did not. “The two shell types indicate that two sexes of Stupendemys existed – males with horned shells, and females with hornless shells,” said Sánchez.

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