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Giant tortoise fossil from nearly 13,000 years ago found in Sicily

Giant tortoise fossil from nearly 13,000 years ago found in Sicily

An international team of scientists has discovered something truly exceptional in the land of Sicily, exactly in the Zubbio cave in Cozzo San Pietro. It is about the fossil bones of a giant tortoise whose dating reopens the debate on the disappearance of these animals from the Mediterranean basin.

The giant tortoise fossil shows how long these animals have lived in the Mediterranean

The archaeological site of the Zubbio cave is in fact a burial place from the Copper and Bronze Ages. In addition the skeletal fragments of the turtle were dated to about 12,500 years agowhich is in contrast to the temporal context of the other finds in the cave.

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Not only does the fossil record of the giant tortoise not line up with the rest of the cave, but these are remarkably remains latest than when giant tortoises were thought to have gone extinct on Mediterranean islands. So far in fact, the most recent giant tortoise fossils in these places are dated at least 195,000 years ago.

This new discovery therefore shows that giant tortoises have existed in Europe for much longer than was previously known and that these animals were contemporaries of modern humans. It is therefore not excluded that man could have contributed to the disappearance of these majestic reptiles.

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Specifically, according to what was explained by Prof. Dr. Uwe Fritz of the natural history collections Senckenberg in Dresden, what was found in the Zubbio site is the intact femur of a giant tortoise. And that looks like it was a really lucky hit. According to Dr. Fritz, in fact, “the femurs are among the most common and best preserved remains of large fossil turtles. They are an important clue to understand which species it is. “

Solitudo Sicula: the Sicilian prehistoric giant tortoise

Comparison of the femur with other turtle species made it possible to determine the size of the animal. The researchers determined that the specimen had a carapace length from 50 to 60 centimeters. It was therefore a species up to three times larger than Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni), a species that is still found today in Sicily.

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The researchers, led by Prof. Dr. Massimo Delfino of the University of Turin, have also established that it is a species whose lineage is now totally extinct. The femur found in Sicily differs significantly from that of all turtles existing today, but very similar bones are present in giant tortoises of the Mediterranean region which are already extinct.

This species is therefore so different from all others, including fossil ones, that researchers have included it in the separate genus Solitudo. The recently discovered Sicilian species, named Solitudo Siculais the longest surviving representative of this genus and may have been hunted and eaten by Paleolithic humans.

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Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay