Today I am breaking the all penguins rule at March of the Fossil Penguins to share a very special discovery. My graduate student Edwin Cadena studies another fascinating group of aquatic animals – side-necked turtles. Today, our paper on a new species of extinct turtle from Colombia hits the scientific newsstands. Carbonemys cofrinii was a behemoth of a turtle. It’s head was almost as big as a football and its shell was bigger than a person when stood on end. Edwin discovered this amazing fossil in a coal mine, hence the name “Carbonemys“, Latin for “coal turtle”. Carbonemys lived alongside many other reptiles in a sweltering swampland about 58 million years ago, several million years after the extinction that killed off the non-avian dinosaurs. Among these were smaller turtles, crocodiles, and the largest snake ever discovered – Titanoboa. Aside from leading the scientific paper that formally describes this new turtle, Edwin was the discoverer of the ancient shell. Other turtle remains from smaller species collected in the area have crocodilian bite marks, indicating they had to be wary of predators. Not so for an adult Carbonemys – crocodiles would have more to fear from the turtle than the turtle would from them.
Next week, it’s back to penguins, but today let’s celebrate this monster turtle.
Cadena, E.A., D.T. Ksepka, C.A. Jaramilo and J.I. Bloch. New pelomedusoid turtles (Testudines, Panpleurodira) from the late Paleocene Cerrejón Formation of Colombia and implications for phylogeny and body size evolution. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.