facebook
twitter
rss
account
search
search
 

Fossil said to be from earliest ancestor of modern turtles

May 30, 2013 at 6:33 PM   |   Comments

NEW YORK, May 30 (UPI) -- U.S. paleontologists say a fossil has provided clues to the early evolution of one of nature's unique developments -- the turtle shell.

They suggest a 260-million-year-old reptile from South Africa, Eunotosaurus africanus, is the earliest known version of a turtle, in part because of its distinctive T-shaped ribs -- which represent an early step in the evolutionary development of the carapace, the hard, upper part of the shell of today's turtles.

"We are the first to thoroughly describe the whole skeleton and we found that Eunotosaurus uniquely shares numerous features with [modern] turtles, including development and muscle anatomy," Gabriel Bever, an anatomy professor at New York Institute of Technology, said.

"Our data support Eunotosaurus as an important link in that evolutionary chain that eventually produced modern turtles," he said. "This is an earlier version of the turtle."

Previously the oldest known turtle was a 220-million-year-old reptile from China. Confirming Eunotosaurus as part of the turtle lineage pushes the age of the evolutionary story back 40 million years, researchers said.

They acknowledge that because Eunotosaurus lacks many iconic turtle features -- such as the portion of the hard shell covering its belly, or plastron -- it will remain a controversial species.

However, the distinctive ribs are strong evidence Eunotosaurus fills in an early chapter in the turtle story, researcher Tyler Lyson of Yale University said.

"This helps fill the morphological gap between a lizard body plan and the highly modified body form found in turtles today," he said.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
Most Popular
1
Android phones to join iPhone in saying no to the police Android phones to join iPhone in saying no to the police
2
Perth's first iPhone buyer immediately drops brand new phone on live TV Perth's first iPhone buyer immediately drops brand new phone on live TV
3
Dogs are the favorite food of leopards in rural India Dogs are the favorite food of leopards in rural India
4
Major palm oil companies to halt deforestation Major palm oil companies to halt deforestation
5
Only 5 billion years until Andromeda Galaxy eats Milky Way Only 5 billion years until Andromeda Galaxy eats Milky Way
Trending News
Video
x
Feedback