This jaw-droppingly vast specimen is the biggest known finish turtle shell on Earth.

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An illustration that a giant male (front) and also female (left) Stupendemys geographicus the end swimming for a snack.(Image credit: Jaime Chirinos)
An 8-million-year-old turtle covering unearthed in Venezuela measures almost 8 feet (2.4 meters) long, making the the largest finish turtle shell well-known to science, a new study reported.

This shell belonged come an extinct beast referred to as Stupendemys geographicus, which resided in northern south America throughout the Miocene epoch, which lasted indigenous 12 million come 5 million year ago.

S. Geographicus sweet an estimated 2,500 lbs. (1,145 kilograms), virtually 100 time the size of its closest living relative, the Amazon flow turtle (Peltocephalus dumerilianus), and twice the dimension of the biggest living turtle, the naval leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), the researchers composed in the study.

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Its superior shell makes this ancient creature "one that the largest, if not the biggest turtle that ever before existed," study an elderly researcher Marcelo Sánchez-Villagra, the director of the Paleontological Institute and also Museum at the college of Zurich, stated in a statement.

The types likely achieved its colossal dimension thanks to the warmth wetlands and lakes in the habitat, Sánchez noted.

Study command researcher Edwin Cadena, an associate professor that paleontology in ~ Universidad del Rosario in Colombia, examines one of the Stupendemys geographicus male turtle shells throughout a dig in 2016. (Image credit: Rodolfo Sánchez)

Rodolfo Sánchez showcases the turtle shell of the huge Stupendemys geographicus, i beg your pardon lived around 8 million years ago in northern South America. (Image credit: Rodolfo Sánchez)

Study co-researcher Rodolfo Sánchez, a paleontologist at the Urumaco Paleontological Museum in Venezuela, collection data near where the fossils to be discovered. (Image credit: Edwin Cadena)

Rodolfo Sánchez (left) and Edwin Cadena (right) work together to excavate the huge turtle fossils found in north Venezuela. (Image credit: Edwin Cadena)
Study lead researcher Edwin Cadena, an combine professor the paleontology in ~ Universidad del Rosario in Colombia, examines among the Stupendemys geographicus male turtle shells throughout a destruction in 2016. (Image credit: Rodolfo Sánchez)

Scientists have known about the colossal S. Geographicus since 1976, yet the brand-new investigation uncovered even much more fossils and also secrets around this poorly understood turtle. For instance, big caimans (a type of crocodile) chomped under on S. Geographicus shells, and also S. Geographicus males had actually horned shells.

Included in the study were shells and the very first known lower jaws of these turtles, which came from a 1994 destruction in Venezuela"s Urumaco region, also as new finds indigenous the La Tatacoa Desert in Colombia. After examining these fossils, the researchers realized that the masculine turtles had actually unique, horn-like weapons at the front of their carapaces, or top shells.

These horns were likely used as weapons in male-to-male combat, the researchers said. Similar combative habits is seen now in snapping turtle (Chelydridae), whose males regularly fight each other to establish dominance in overlapping territories, the researchers said.

An "elongated and also deep scar in the left horn" of one of the S. Geographicus shells could be a note from combat between males, the researcher added.

A lone caiman this protruded from another shell, suggesting that, though this turtles were large, lurking predators still hunted them, the researcher said.

The research was published online Wednesday (Feb. 12) in the journal scientific research Advances.

Originally released on Live Science.

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Laura is one editor at Live Science. She edits Life"s little Mysteries and reports on general science, including archaeology and animals. Her occupational has appeared in The new York Times, Scholastic, famous Science and also Spectrum, a website on autism research. She has won lot of awards from the culture of experienced Journalists and the Washington Newspaper Publishers association for her reporting at a weekly newspaper near Seattle. Laura stop a bachelor"s level in English literature and also psychology indigenous Washington university in St. Louis and also an progressed certificate in scientific research writing indigenous NYU.