The 5 largest ancient turtles that ever existed were among the dinosaurs | Trending Viral hub

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When we talk about survival of the fittest, the first image that often comes to mind is that of giant, ferocious predators capable of killing their way to dominance, whether Tyrannosaurus Rex or the giant ichthyosaurs that once dominated the ocean.

While those titans died out eons ago, some of the giant reptiles that lived alongside them (specifically, turtles) focused more on defensive strategies, helping them survive against such fearsome predators. For example, paleontologists discovered a sea turtle fossil in Colombia that dates back to at least 120 million years ago, to the Cretaceous; meanwhile Odontochelys semitestacea, a fossil discovered in China is a close relative of the turtle dating back 220 million years.

But which turtles were the largest to ever walk or swim on Earth, big enough to withstand attacks from ferocious Cretaceous predators? Here are a few that put our modern-day leatherback and Galapagos turtles to shame.

1. Archelon Isquiros: The largest known turtle

This fossil of a giant sea turtle is located in the Natural History Museum in Vienna; The species from which it comes (Archelon ischyros) is the largest of all known turtles. (Credit: frentic00/Shutterstock)

The largest turtles ever discovered date back to the late Cretaceous period, about 74 million years ago. The species archeon ischiros It was a sea turtle that could measure more than 15 feet long, more than twice as long as leatherback turtles.

These turtles were similar to today’s sea turtles in appearance, but their large size puts them in another league. They probably ate jellies and crustaceans like many sea turtles today. A nearly complete 16-foot specimen was discovered in North Dakota in the 1970s and is now in the Vienna Natural History Museum.


Read more: Everything you need to know about the secret world of sea turtles


2. Protostega gigas: The 2000 pound giant

A 19th century engraving showing the enormous sea turtle Protostega gigas. (off forever/Shutterstock)

Although it is not as big as archeon, protostega gigas It was still a giant from the late Cretaceous. These turtles swam in the inland sea that traversed North America from the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico.

Some of these exceeded 12 feet and weighed more than 2,000 poundsbased on fossil specimens found by scientists. protostega gigas He probably had a diet similar to archeonand some fossils have been found with shark teeth embedded insiderevealing that their hard shells were not always a deterrent to marine predators.


Read more: How old is the oldest sea turtle?


3. The enigmatic Leviathanochelys: The largest known turtle in Europe

An illustrated representation of Leviathanochelys aenigmatica. (Credit: ICRA_Arts)

This ancient creature was first discovered in the southern Pyrenees in Spain. When described in 2022, large tortoises had been found in fossil deposits in North America, but this was the largest European specimen.

“Depending on the size of the pelvis, it is likely that leviathanochelys (enigmatic) was as big as archeon, thus becoming one of the largest sea turtles that has ever existed,” the study authors wrote. They hypothesized that the sea turtle probably spent much of its time in the open ocean. Not much else is known about this creature: apart from the pelvis, researchers only recovered part of the back of the shell.


Read more: Why were prehistoric marine reptiles so huge?


4. Ocepechelon bouyai: The turtle that Used his snout to suck food

An illustrated reconstruction of Ocepechelon bouyai. (Credit: C. Letenneur/MNHN/CC-BY)

The species Ocepechelon bouyai It was found in Moroccan deposits dating to the late Cretaceous. This creature had an elongated head (more than two feet long) and probably fed by suction. “The feeding apparatus of Ocepechelona bony snout resembling a pipette, is unique among tetrapods,” said the The authors of a 2013 study wrote..

Paleontologists have only found the skull of this species, but based on comparisons with archeon and Protostega skulls, the animal could have measured more than 7.5 feet long from snout to tail, the authors of that study wrote. This strange feeding pattern of a giant tortoise illustrates the enormously diverse forms that chelonians adopted near the end of the Cretaceous, before the Chicxulub asteroid impact put an end to many of them.


Read more: 5 of the most interesting prehistoric marine reptiles


5. Stupendemys geographical: The living tank

An artist’s illustration of Stupendemys Geographicus. (Credit: JA Chirinos)

Just like today, most of the largest turtles of the past stayed in the sea. It is not so with Stupendemys geographic – a huge freshwater turtle tank that weighed more than 2,500 pounds and they roamed lakes and rivers during the Miocene. In fact, it weighed about twice as much as leatherback turtles, and the males may have had horns on the front of their shells.

This reptile, which lived in Colombia and Venezuela, had a shell about 7.9 feet long. Bite marks show that large alligators could have tried their luck with this armored giant. Their closest living relatives are the aquatic (and comparatively small) Amazon River turtles.


Read more: Why are sea turtles in danger and how can we save them?


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