The discovery of a new fossil turtle species in Colombia’s Cerrejón coal mine by researchers from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama and the Florida Museum of Natural History helps to explain the origin of one of the most biodiverse groups of turtles in South America.
Cerrejonemys wayuunaiki takes its genus name from Cerrejón, and emys — Greek for turtle. Its species name is the language spoken by the Wayuu people who live on the Guajira Peninsula in northeastern Colombia near the mine.
About as thick as a standard dictionary, this turtle’s shell 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 neighborhood 60 million years ago.
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