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A large archeleon skeleton hangs from the ceiling in the Wallace Building’s Ed Leith Cretaceous Menagerie.
photo by David Lipnowski [BA(Hons)/08]

Heads Up

The goliath, extinct turtle hanging from the ceiling probably wouldn’t have eaten you.

Unlike the other creatures on display in this small museum: There’s a fanged fish that would attack from below, a carnivorous dinosaur that would grip and rip.

Yet somehow this Archelon—the world’s largest-ever sea turtle—is the most intimidating creature in the Wallace Building’s Ed Leith Cretaceous Menagerie.

With a chest spanning five metres, this replica of the two-tonne turtle draws awe from visitors and students who sit beneath its bulk. It’s here in honour of the late Prof. Leith [BSc/28, MSc/29], a longtime U of M geological sciences professor, who was passionate about sharing ancient wonders.

The life-size skeleton of the “ruling turtle” was recreated based on one found in South Dakota. It’s been 75 million years since it stalked a seaway that cut through North America, crushing squids and molluscs with its immense jaws. And still today the prehistoric heavyweight inspires groups around the globe—including ARCHELON, the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece.

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