DescriptionCOLOSSAL FOSSIL TORTOISE
Oligocene, White River Badlands
South Dakota, USA
The term turtle is commonly used to describe both turtles and tortoises with the main difference between the two that turtles are aquatic; whereas, tortoises are terrestrial, land-dwelling creatures. Anatomically, both have hard shells protecting their bodies. The top shell is called the carapace, and the bottom shell is called the plastron. Of course, the shells are often the only preserved remains of this type of fossil as hard parts are much more likely to fossilize than soft parts. Sometimes a skull or bones from the extremities will be preserved. In this case, we have both shells, which have been very well preserved.
This specimen is quite simply superlative if for no other reason than its immense size. Fortunately, it is also in excellent condition and has been professionally restored for study and display. The giant tortoise, Testudo thompsoni, was found in the Badlands of South Dakota and it exhibits the classic "white" appearance characteristic of most fossils from that region. This specimen is truly remarkable in its elegance and its simplicity. Measuring an astonishing 32 inches (81.28 cm) in length by 24 inches (60.96 cm) in width and weighing in at approximately 280 pounds (127 kg), it is, without doubt, one of the largest - if not the largest - of its variety ever to be offered for sale.
This colossal specimen is a male, as indicated by its pronounced "gular scute" (projection) extending from the front of the plastron, as well as the significant curvature of the underside of the shell. The scutes - the bony external plates - on the shell are in fine condition. The piece has been fully restored and reinforced internally to ensure stability. The specimen features an excellent shape and is fully inflated, i.e. not compressed (squashed) like so many turtle and tortoise fossils where the 3-D symmetry has been distorted. The majority of what minimal restoration has been done, was in reconstruction of the "gular" scute and repair of one area on the top of the shell that had suffered some compression. There was about 90 percent of the original fossil material on the shells. The experts involved with this project consider it a superlative piece.
This specimen is aesthetic when viewed from the top, the underside and around the periphery. Both shells are well mineralized and not weathered, showing no visible weakness in the shell material. As a museum quality piece it demands to be displayed where it can be appreciated. This Oligocene giant is not typical, and the term "one-of-a-kind" is definitely appropriate in this context. The size, coupled with the high percentage of original fossil material on this piece, combine to make this one of the best ever found.
Overall Measurements: 32 x 24 x 10 inches (81.28 x 60.96 x 25.40 cm)
Estimate: $15,000 - $20,000.
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