STL Science Center

STL Science Center

02 September 2015

Sizes of Gigantic Turtles

©Dan Varner (via Mike Everhart's Oceans of Kansas)
Unfortunately some of the greatest paleoartists of all time are in the past (though many still thrive and survive now). Dan Varner is certainly amongst those numbers that have passed on but he was relatively unknown to general audiences. The main reason is that his art was concerned with the Western Interior Seaway and the creatures that were living there in its heyday. Thankfully, though, he illustrated wonderful and accurate (as accurate as possible) animals that we still discuss to this day, like Protostega. This illustration, for example, shows the sheer size of an adult Protostega in comparison to an adult Hesperornis. To those without the knowledge of Hesperornis size, an adult bird in the genus would reach approximately 5ft from beak to tail. The fact that the bird barely reaches from one side of the turtle's shell to the other side leaves us with an interesting view of the enormity of the turtle. The carapace is obviously longer than it was wide and, adding on the flippers, the total width of the turtle was most likely in excess of 10 ft in even the smallest adult individuals. As we stated earlier, adult specimens of Protostega gigas were almost entirely safe from the apex predators of the ocean. The babies were probably in danger from the laying of the egg until it reached the adult size however, as with many extant marine turtles.

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