NC State scientists discover ancient, giant turtle

Posted May 17, 2012

— Paleontologists with North Carolina State University reported on Thursday their findings after seven years of study of an ancient, giant species of turtle.

The Carbonemys cofrinii, or “coal turtle,” was discovered in 2005 in a coal mine. It has a shell 5 feet 7 inches long and a skull the size of a regulation football.

The huge reptile lived in South America about 60 million years ago.

Edwin Cadena, the N.C. State graduate student who made the discovery, explained his find at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences Thursday afternoon.

“We had recovered smaller turtle specimens from the site. But after spending about four days working on uncovering the shell, I realized that this particular turtle was the biggest anyone had found in this area for this time period – and it gave us the first evidence of giantism in freshwater turtles,” he said.

The find is the only one of its kind. Dr. Dan Ksepka, of N.C. State and the Museum of Natural Sciences, says a turtle that big would preclude other large predators from living in the same territory. “That turtle survives because it has eaten all of the major competitors for resources," he said.

Cadena and Ksepka worked with Carlos Jaramillo, of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, and Jonathan Bloch, of the Florida Museum of Natural History. Their work was published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.


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  • quaten May 18, 2012

    Did it have a dew claw?

  • ladyblue May 18, 2012

    Did anyone count the toes?

    yep-- it took 7 years...didn't take that long to put out facts on the oldiest human found.

  • quaten May 18, 2012

    Did anyone count the toes?

  • muggs May 17, 2012

    I'll bet Turtle Man could have found that turtle and he only charges minimum wage and a piece of apple pie,Call of The Wildman,yip,yip,yip,critter control from Kentucky,Discovery Channel.

  • mmtlash May 17, 2012

    Am I not turtlelee enough for the turtle club? TURTLE TURTLE!

  • geosol May 17, 2012

    Hey, i watch the History channel, so i no more than any ole "scientist" anyway! And we all know that scientists are only trying to fool people so that they can get RICH!

  • Lightfoot3 May 17, 2012

    “Amphibian? Turtles are reptiles.” – barbado

    Reptiles? I thought they were ambidextrous.

  • dsalter May 17, 2012

    An old Maryland mascot perhaps?

  • ladyblue May 17, 2012

    Are you a paleontologist? Do you know how long it takes to uncover a complete fossil from rock without destroying it? Why attempt to criticize something before doing a tiny bit of research into a field you don't understand?

    I very well understand it's a slow process to getting them out of the ground since i constantly watch them uncover artifacts on history channel weekly with some of the best paleontologists archeologist in the world. It is very time consuming in the digging but the article said it took 7 years to study a turtle.. maybe they drug out the process for more monies since it wouldn't be the first time it's happened. It still doesn't impress me to be so excited about this find. Now if it was the missing link .......

  • Crumps Br0ther May 17, 2012

    Amphibian? Turtles are reptiles.