Giant prehistoric turtle skeleton discovered with beak, degenerated teeth

By Yin Han Source:Global Times Published: 2018/8/23 19:03:40

The skull fossil of the Eorhynchochelys sinensis turtle found in Guizhou Province with both beak and degraded teeth, which reveals the complex early history of turtles. Photo: Courtesy of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences



Chinese paleontologists have discovered the skeleton of a prehistoric turtle in Southwest China's Guizhou Province, revealing the complex early history of the creature.

In the fossil, the teeth have started to evolve into a beak, like modern turtles have.

This is the first prehistoric turtle found in China with a beak, according to a report released by the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences on Thursday.

The skeleton is over two meters long and was found in the geological layer that dates back 228 million years ago to the Triassic period.

The turtle was named Eorhynchochelys sinensis. Related findings are published in an article in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

The skeletal structure of turtles "is extremely different from other tetrapod animals," Li Chun, leader of the research program and expert at the institute, was quoted as saying by news portal sciencenet.cn. 

Turtles generally have shorter trunks wrapped by carapaces, and have a beak instead of teeth in their mouths.

These features have long been believed to have emerged all at once, and not to have changed during the past 200 million years. However, there were not enough turtle fossils to confirm the process of turtles' evolution, said the report sent by the institute.

Eorhynchochelys sinensis however, has multiple features of transition. Its skeleton structure showed that it lived an amphibious life and had a habit of burrowing.

"This is a significant finding… it proves that the creature has a much more complicated early history than people have expected," news portal sciencenet.cn reported.



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