Friday, May 18, 2012

Giant Humongous, Volkswagen Smartcar, Croc-eating with Giant Snakes as neighbors Turtle (fossil) Discovered

Reconstruction of Carbonemys preying upon a small crocodylomorph. Artwork by Liz Bradford

The discovery of a large fossil freshwater turtle is always interesting. The shell length was only about 5 feet long, so to us marine types this is no big deal, but to the news agencies trying to balance out all of their usual doom and gloom articles, this was a great opportunity.

As far as I can tell, it started with a North Carolina State University press release, "Ancient Giant Turtle Fossil Revealed."  This was based on a technical publication (see reference below). This information was then re-structured and highlighted in a variety of different ways by the various news agencies. A very few added information, many deleted bits (apparently the fact that the turtle's shell was as long as a grad student is tall - was not really all that interesting), but they all looked for an angle. The angle mostly occurs in the titles.

The most informative articles I saw on the turtle's discovery were the ones via the Christian Science Monitor, "Humongous Volkswagen-sized turtle fossils discovered" and another via Wired Magazine, "Huge Turtle Was Titanoboa's Neighbor." Besides being accurate and even adding info (Wired) they also had entertaining titles. I also liked,"Ancient Giant Turtle Could Give Gators A Run For Their Money," by Red Orbit. This theme was expanded upon by the Latino Fox News network a couple of hours later with, "Giant Turtle Ate Crocodiles for Dinner, Scientists Say."

And I thought snapping turtles were worrisome. As a budding biologist, I once showed a younger neighbor boy how you could poke a snapping turtle in the nose and get it to show the cool fish lure they have on their tongue. Although I still have the finger that the turtle ultimately latched onto, this was more due to the way snapping turtles eat (bite just enough to puncture and hold, then bleed the fish down) and thanks to my dad moving very fast with a large screwdriver to lever the jaws open. But I digress - read one of the articles, you will be entertained.

P.S. The best outside comment on one of the titles was from the LA Times' Science Now site. Their article title was, "Researchers find fossil of a turtle that was size of a Smart car," which prompted a reader to respond with,

"Will these be offered soon? Slow but reliable, economical and naturally cras(h) resistant. I'll take two."              ggreen48 at 11:52 AM May 18, 2012

I think that riding a giant predatory turtle down the road would make quite the statement - and no one would mess with you if they were smart.



Cadena, E., Ksepka, D., Jaramillo, C., & Bloch, J. (2012). New pelomedusoid turtles from the late Palaeocene Cerrejón Formation of Colombia and their implications for phylogeny and body size evolution Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, 10 (2), 313-331

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