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World’s Largest Turtle

World’s Largest Turtle

An 8-million-year-old turtle shell unearthed in Venezuela measures nearly 8 feet (2.4 meters) long, making it the largest complete turtle shell known to science, a new study reported.

This shell belonged to an extinct beast called Stupendemys geographicus, which lived in northern South America during the Miocene epoch, which lasted from 12 million to 5 million years ago.

S. geographicus weighed an estimated 2,500 lbs. (1,145 kilograms), almost 100 times the size of its closest living relative, the Amazon river turtle (Peltocephalus dumerilianus), and twice the size of the largest living turtle, the marine leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), the researchers wrote in the study.

Its impressive shell makes this ancient creature "one of the largest, if not the largest turtle that ever existed," study senior researcher Marcelo Sánchez-Villagra, the director of the Paleontological Institute and Museum at the University of Zurich, said in a statement.

The species likely achieved its colossal size thanks to the warm wetlands and lakes in its habitat, Sánchez noted.Scientists have known about the colossal S. geographicus since 1976, but the new investigation uncovered even more fossils and secrets about this poorly understood turtle. For instance, large caimans (a type of crocodile) chomped down on S. geographicus shells, and S. geographicus males had horned shells.