Washington: Fossil of a turtle, which lived on the earth 60 million years ago and had a shell as thick as a standard dictionary, has been found in Colombia.
The discovery will help to explain the origin of one of
the most biodiverse groups of turtles that probably originated
near the tip of South America before the continent separated
from India and Madagascar.
A team of researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical
Research Institute in Panama and the Florida Museum of Natural
History found the fossil of the species -- Cerrejonemys
wayuunaiki -- in a coal mine at Cerrejon in Columbia.
This turtle's shell, which is as thick as a standard
dictionary, may have warded off attacks by the Titanoboa,
thought to have been the world's biggest snake, and by other,
crocodile-like creatures living in its neighbourhood 60
million years ago, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology
"The fossils provide a snapshot of the first modern
rainforest in South America?after the big Cretaceous
extinctions and before the Andes rose, modern river basins
formed and the Panama land bridge connected North and South
America," said senior author Carlos Jarmillo at the
"We are still trying to understand why six of this
turtle's modern relatives live in the Amazon, Orinoco and
Magdalena river basins of South America and one lives in
Madagascar," explained lead author Edwin Cadena from North
Carolina State University.
The discovery closes an important gap in the fossil
record and will characterise two more new turtle species and
analyse the histology of fossil turtle bones.
"I hope this will give us an even better understanding of
turtle diversity in the region and some important clues about
the environment where they lived," Jarmillo said.
First Published: Saturday, April 10, 2010, 09:17