Paleo Profile: The Giant Tarasque Tortoise
Giant, shelled reptiles hold a special place in our hearts, whether you prefer something as highbrow as the classical myth of the World Turtle or the wanton, city-stomping destruction of Gamera. Turtles and tortoises already have an ancient look to them, even when they’ve just hatched, and so the giant ones seem like the must be even more ancient and wise, as if they carry secrets from the days when the Earth was young.
In 1844, the French paleontologist Auguste Bravard described the shell of one such chelonian found in the Oligocene-age rock of southern France. Very little was known about even living tortoises at the time, so it made sense to attribute the two-and-a-half-foot-long shell to the same