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ARCHELON is also a sea-turtle conservation society, see ARCHELON, the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece

Archelon is a genus of extinct sea turtle, the largest that has ever been documented. The first specimen of Archelon (YPM 3000) was collected from the Pierre Shale of South Dakota by Dr. G.R. Wieland in 1895 and described by him the following year (Wieland, 1896). The largest Archelon fossil, found in the Pierre Shale of South Dakota in the 1970s, measures more than 4 meters (13.5 feet) long, and about 4.87 meters (16 feet) wide from flipper to flipper. It was a marine turtle, distantly related to present day Leatherback Sea Turtles. Its fossils date to 70 million years ago in the Cretaceous period, when a shallow sea covered most of central North America. Most of the known remains have been found in South Dakota and Wyoming. Though anatomically similar to the earlier species Protostega gigas, it was much larger.


Unlike most modern turtles, Archelon did not have a solid shell, but instead had a skeletal framework supporting a leathery or bony carapace. Other distinguishing features include a pointed tail, a narrow skull, a relatively narrow, high-vaulted shell, and a pronounced overbite. They probably had a very strong bite, and were optimized for feeding on pelagic mollusks such as squid. One theory concerning the one specimen exhibited by the National Natural History Museum in Vienna is that it may have died while brumating on the ocean floor. However, brumation in reptiles is a response to cold weather and it is unlikely that the Western Interior Sea was ever that cold. This same specimen also suggests a century-long life span.

The live weight of an Archelon ischyros is estimated at more than 2,200 kilograms (4,500 pounds) .

Popular Culture

An Archelon made an appearance in the Hammer Film Productions 1966 remake of One Million Years B.C.. Archelon also appeared in the Walking with Dinosaurs spinoff special Sea Monsters.

External links


Published References:

  • Hay, O. P. 1908. The fossil turtles of North America. Carnegie Institution of Washington, Publication No. 75, 568 pp, 113 pl.
  • Wieland, G. R. 1896. Archelon ischyros: a new gigantic cryptodire testudinate from the Fort Pierre Cretaceous of South Dakota. American Journal of Science, 4th Series 2(12):399-412, pl. v.
  • Wieland, G. R. 1902. Notes on the Cretaceous turtles, Toxochelys and Archelon, with a classification of the marine Testudinata. American Journal of Science, Series 4, 14:95-108, 2 text-figs.
  • Wieland, G. R. 1906. The osteology of Protostega, Memoirs of the Carnegie Museum, 2(7):279-305.
  • Wieland, G. R. 1909. Revision of the Protostegidae. American Journal of Science, Series 4. 27(158):101-130, pls. ii-iv, 12 text-figs.

Online References:

Black Hills Institute of Geological Research

Oceans of Kansas Paleontology

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