20 Aug 2010

Remnants of giant turtle found in Vanuatu

2:08 pm on 20 August 2010

Bones belonging to an 8-foot long-horned turtle have been discovered in Vanuatu.

The remnants of these giant land turtles were unearthed in a 3,000-year-old archaeological site on Vanuatu and belong to a previously-unidenitifed turtle species that evolved 50 million years ago.

Previously, turtles of the genus Meiolania were thought to have become extinct 50,000 years ago.

Wired.com reports that the bones were uncovered from a prehistoric midden, indicating that the giant turtles were likely eaten by human hunters.

Researchers estimate it took no longer than 200 years for Vanuatu's first human inhabitants, seafarers from the ancient Polynesian Lapita culture, to hunt the turtles to extinction.

The Lapita culture also appears to have become extinct shortly after the giant turtles disappeared.