Carbonemys

carbonemys
Carbonemys (Wikimedia Commons).

Name:

Carbonemys (Greek for "coal turtle"); pronounced car-BON-eh-miss

Habitat:

Swamps of South America

Historical Epoch:

Paleocene (60 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 10 feet long and one ton

Diet:

Small animals

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Large size; capacious shell; powerful jaws

 

About Carbonemys

It's fitting that the name Carbonemys starts with "car," because this Paleocene turtle was about the size of a small automobile (and, considering its massive bulk and cold-blooded metabolism, it probably didn't get very impressive gas mileage).

Discovered in 2005, but only announced to the world in 2012, Carbonemys was far from the biggest prehistoric turtle that ever lived; two Cretaceous turtles that preceded it by millions of years, Archelon. and Protostega, were probably twice as heavy. Carbonemys wasn't even the biggest "pleurodire" (side-necked) turtle in history, outclassed by Stupendemys, which lived over 50 million years later.

So why has Carbonemys been getting so much attention? Well, for one thing, Volkswagen Beetle-sized turtles aren't discovered every day. For another, Carbonemys was equipped with an unusually powerful set of jaws, which leads paleontologists to speculate that this giant turtle feasted on comparably sized mammals and reptiles, possibly including crocodiles. And for a third, Carbonemys shared its South American habitat with the one-ton prehistoric snake Titanoboa, which may not have been above chowing down on the occasional turtle when circumstances demanded!

(See Carbonemys vs. Titanoboa - Who Wins?)