Paleontologists have uncovered the fossilized remains of a turtle about the size of a Mini Cooper.
The turtle was discovered in a Colombian coal mine where scientists previously discovered over-sized crocodiles and 40- to 50-foot-long snakes, according to the Charlotte Observer.
“Carbonemys cofrinii, or ‘coal turtle,’ was well over six feet long from nose to tail,” the Observer reported. “It represents a rapid increase in size from the largest known to have lived before it, which were about two feet long. That makes it an intriguing piece of the evolutionary puzzle. In part … that growth spurt may have been a Darwinian strategy to fight off the giant crocs by making the turtle simply too big for dinner.”
The turtle was so huge, a paleontologist told the paper, that it may have dined on crocodiles itself. Its shell bore bite marks from the mega crocs, but none of the bites were strong enough to penetrate it. The shell alone is about as big as a small car; Fred Flintstone could’ve used it for a bath. As for the turtle’s head … imagine a snapping turtle with a head 10 inches long.
Paleontologists working in the same mining pit where the turtle was found previously uncovered the fossilized remains of Titanoboa, a monstrous sort of boa constrictor that probably preyed on the giant crocs, coiling itself around them until they were dead. The snake weighed an estimated 2,500 pounds and was three feet in diameter, the paper reported.
The creatures lived about 60 million years ago, after the dinosaurs died off.
But what caused the burst of gigantism?
“A warmer climate is one possibility,” according to Wired magazine. “Perhaps Carbonemys, Titanoboa and the larger of their neighbors ballooned in size thanks to the equitable, hothouse world. Then again … the largest turtles of the group Carbonemys belongs to – called panpelomedusoids – are found in strata from cooler times. The reason for the gigantic nature of Carbonemys might be attributable to other ecological influences that we don’t yet understand. Whatever the reason for the turtle’s size, though, Carbonemys lived in a lush land of giants – a brief episode in time when reptiles again ruled.”