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Ancient Giant Tortoise Discovered In What Is Now Madrid, Spain

A giant tortoise that lived between 20 million and 2 million years ago, that was larger than the tortoises of the Galapagos Islands was discovered by

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A giant tortoise that lived between 20 million and 2 million years ago, that was larger than the tortoises of the Galapagos Islands was discovered by researchers with Spain’s National University of Distance Education and the University of Lisbon.


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The tortoise, named Titanochelon for its massive size, was 2 meters in length and was short, wide and strong. Its shell was covered with ossified scales that helped to protect it against predators, the researchers said in a study published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. Researchers believed its range included Western Europe and Asia. 

What is equally interesting is how the discovery came about. It was a result of a decades long effort that started in the 1920s and was disrupted by civil war in Spain. Apparently Spanish paleontologists were in the midst of discovering the species when war ended the research.

Scientist Adán Pérez-García and his colleagues picked up where the initial research ended, starting from scratch and found large collections of fossils in Madrid’s National Museum of Natural Sciences, including near-complete fossils. They also found more fossils in the Cerro de los Batallones (Hill of the Battalions) near Madrid.


John B. Virata keeps a ball python, two corn snakes, a king snake, and two leopard geckos. His first snake, a California kingsnake, was purchased at the Pet Place in Westminster, CA for $5. His first pet reptile was a green anole that arrived in a small box via mail order. Follow him on Twitter @johnvirata 

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