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Largest Cretaceous turtle ever found discovered in New Jersey

The distal half (shown on the left) was discovered in 2012; the proximal half (at right) has was first described in 1849.
The distal half (shown on the left) was discovered in 2012; the proximal half (at right) has was first described in 1849.
Credit: Drexel University Usage Restrictions: None

The two ends of the front leg bone of a Cretaceous Period turtle species were connected after more than 160 years by researchers at Drexel University and the New Jersey State Museum according to their report in the March 25, 2014, issue of the Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.

One end of the Atlantochelys mortoni humerus was discovered in 1849 by Louis Agassiz and the companion end was found by amateur paleontologist Gregory Harpel in Monmouth County, New Jersey.

The discovery of an ancient bone that has been exposed to the atmosphere and weather for 70 million to 75 million years is an unusual find. Few ancient bones have withstood the weathering of millions of years.

Comparison of the two bone fragments produced an exact fit.

The discovery allowed the researchers to estimate the size of Atlantochelys mortoni as being at least 10 times the size of modern loggerhead turtles. This is potentially the largest ancient sea turtle ever discovered.

The find forced paleontologists to revise their concept that ancient bones that have been fossilized into stone cannot withstand weathering for millions of years if the bones are exposed to the elements.

A video of the discovery can be seen here.