STL Science Center

STL Science Center

19 February 2017

Fresh Prince of Turtles

Freshwater turtles are capable of growing to large sizes in some genera if allowed to continue to growing for along time and not killed at young ages. The past is littered with the remains of giant turtles, both freshwater and marine. One of the largest genera of these freshwater turtles was the turtle Stupendemys. Consisting of two acknowledges species (S. geographicus Wood 1976 and S. souzai Bocquentin & Melo, 2006), Stupendemys carapaces averaged 1.80 m (5.9 ft) long with the largest individual approaching an estimated 3.3 m (11 ft) long carapace; an estimate that makes this turtle larger than the largest marine turtle Archelon. These two species are of similar size with S. souzai being described as smaller and have both been recovered from South America; S. geographicus from Venezuela and S. souzai from Brazil. Thought to be an enormous grazer and terrible swimmer, it has been hypothesized that Stupendemys used its weight to control its buoyancy and keep it grounded in the vegetation of the calm slow moving riverbeds it would have inhabited. There are hypotheses that the habitat of the turtle may have lacked significant predators, allowing the animal to reach the sizes that it did, but regardless of the validity of these hypotheses, this was an enormous turtle as we can see below with this replica carapace:
Unattributed photo found online

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