In an environment such as the Bengal Swamp, where vegetation flourishes, the presence of large herbivores is no surprise. The largest of them by far is the Toraton.
The Toraton is by far the largest member of the ancient tortoise family, which dates back to the Pliocene epoch of the Neogene period. Since 220 million years or so before the human era, in the Late Triassic period, their order has thrived. Their basic shape and lifestyle were so successful from an early stage in their history that they hardly evolved. Now, 100 million years past humans, conditions have encouraged a huge increase in their size, enabling them to exploit the incredible mass of vegetation that now exists in this greenhouse environment.
The Toraton is a cold-blooded reptile, so it does not face the problem of overheating that would confront a similarly-sized mammal.
With an average body weight of 120 tonnes (132.25 tonnes), this is the second-biggest animal known ever to have existed on Earth, surpassing even the blue whale (95 tons, or 104.6875 tons), and surpassed only by the late Jurassic sauropod dinosaur Amphicoelias fragillimus (200 tonnes, or 220.4375 tons).
Due to its sheer size, an adult Toraton has no predators, and no longer has any need for a shell for protection. Sections of the
ancestral shell remain, however, forming an external support for the creature's muscles, which its ribs and vertebrae alone cannot carry. In addition, the legs have moved from a sideways position, in most other reptiles, to underneath the animal, to support it, like four great pillars as it walks along, just like with an elephant's legs.
Any animal bigger than a tonne has to support itself with legs directly under its body, not out to the side, otherwise it would not have to strength to stand up. Once the Toraton changed its gait to accommodate this, it could get bigger and bigger. These adaptations allowed the Toraton to grow 7 meters (22.875 feet) high, 12 meters (39.25 feet) long and reach a whopping bulk of 120 tonnes (132.25 tons).
The Toraton eats constantly. A body this huge requires a large intake of food and the toraton consumes about 1,322.75 pounds (600 kilograms) of plant matter each day. Huge jaw muscles support a scissor-like beak which rips vegetation from the trees. The Toraton does not chew, but grinds up its food in a big muscular stomach, or gizzard. The rear part of the digestive system is a gut where bacteria break down remaining plant matter. This digestive system allows the Toraton to eat virtually any kind of vegetation.
While most tortoises mate on top of each other, Toratons do not because a female will not be able to support 120 tonnes on her back. They solve this problem by mating back to back. They back into each other, and face away from each other, during courtship and mating. Once the male and female are back to back, they both raise their tails to reveal their cloaca, and the two cloaca actually touch, and that is when sperm is transferred from one to the other.
Young Toratons emerge from eggs so tough that the mother helps them out by cracking the shell with her beak. Before they graduate to eating true greens, hatchling Toratons will often eat feces from the adults in order to acquire the essential microflora to digest their low-quality herbivorous diet. Youngsters are cared for by their parents for the first five years of their lives. With no predators big enough to threaten them, healthy Toratons can live 120 years or more. They are the colossi of the Bengal Swamp.
Sometimes, though, elephant-sized young might end up getting killed by certain predators or by a swampus (if it approaches too close to their nurseries). Adult Toratons, though, are far too big for swampus venom to kill.