Reconstruction of Carbonemys preying upon a small crocodylomorph.
Illustration by Liz Bradford.
Picture a turtle the size of a Smart car, with a shell large enough to double as a kiddie pool. Paleontologists from North Carolina State University have found just such a specimen – the fossilized remains of a 60-million-year-old South American giant that lived in what is now Colombia.
The turtle in question is Carbonemys cofrinii, which means “coal turtle,” and is part of a group of side-necked turtles known as pelomedusoides. The fossil was named Carbonemys because it was discovered in 2005 in a coal mine that was part of northern Colombia’s Cerrejon formation. The specimen’s skull measures 24 centimeters, roughly the size of a regulation NFL football. The shell which was recovered nearby - and is believed to belong to the same species - measures 172 centimeters, or about 5 feet 7 inches, long. That’s the same height as Edwin Cadena, the NC State doctoral student who discovered the fossil.