According to a new report, scientists just managed to unearth an 8-million-year-old turtle shell in Venezuela. Measuring nearly 8 feet long (2.4 meters), the new discovery makes it the largest complete turtle shell known to science ever.
Belonging to an ancient turtle species now called the Stupendemys geographicus, the owner of the turtle shell supposedly walked the lands and swam the waters of northern South America during the Miocene epoch, a period that lasted from 12 million to 5 million years ago.
According to the findings made by the researchers in the study, S. geographicus weighs a whopping 2,500 lbs. (1,145 kilograms), almost 100 times the size of its closest living relative, the Amazon river turtle. It’s also apparently twice the size of the largest living turtle, which is the marine leatherback turtle.
“Its impressive shell makes this ancient creature one of the largest, if not the largest turtle that ever existed,” Marcelo Sánchez-Villagra, senior researcher and the director of the Paleontological Institute and Museum at the University of Zurich, said in a statement released after the discovery.
Per Sanchez, the warm wetlands and lakes in its former habitat probably contributed to its gargantuan size.
According to scientists, they have been aware that a creature like S. geographicus used to exist ever since 1976, but it’s only until now that they are able to unearth some more discoveries about the ancient turtle species. For example, males of the species apparently had horns, while their shells usually get chomped by large caimans, which is a species of crocodile.
The highlight, however, was their horns, which protruded in front of their gigantic carapaces. Per the researchers, these horns were likely used in combat, which is a similar behavior that can be observed in today’s snapping turtles. Males of these turtle species usually fight in order to establish their territories, as well as dominance over the other.
The researchers also observed an “elongated and deep scar in the left horn” of one of the S. geographicus shells, which can be a mark from combat. They also found a caiman tooth protruding from another shell, suggesting that these turtles were also most likely hunted by fiercer predators despite being large.