Ancient Thick-Shelled Turtle Discovered in Coal Mine

Researchers have discovered a new fossil turtle species in South America. The turtle species seems to have had a fairly thick shell, which researchers say is as thick as a normal high school textbook.

The turtle’s shell, measuring around 3.3 feet in width and 1.4 inches thick, according to researchers, probably protected it from predators such as the Titanoboa.

The newly found species is being called Cerrejonemys wayuunaiki. The fossil was discovered in Columbia in the Cerrejón coal mine. Author of the study, Edwin Cadena, who is also a doctoral candidate at North Carolina State University, said the species was ancestor to South American freshwater turtles. Their shell is twice as thick as the shells found on present day freshwater turtles.

The findings not only give scientists a peek into what the turtles looked like millions of years ago. Apart from their size, everything else seems pretty similar according to Cadena.

Cadena said that the modern diversity evident in South American tropics was already in place during the Paleocene, which is the period following the extinction of the dinosaurs, which existed around 56 to 65 million years ago.

The recently discovered fossil indicates that it is related quite closely to a group of turtles found in Brazil. This also could imply that they possibly would have migrated to South America, via the coastal line.

Apart from this, Cadena along with some of his colleagues is working hard to identify three other fossil turtle species found at the same site, which are larger than the thick shelled turtle.