In China found a unique fossil of a turtle without a shell

  • In China found a unique fossil of a turtle without a shell

In China found a unique fossil of a turtle without a shell

Palaeontologist Dr Olivier Rieppel, from the Field Museum in Chicago, said: 'This creature was over six feet long, it had a unusual disc-like body and a long tail, and the anterior part of its jaws developed into this odd beak.

Experts suggestthat Eorhynchochelys sinensis could inhabit shallow water and feed both in water and on land. Eorhynchochelys ("Ay-oh-rink-oh-keel-is") means "dawn beak turtle" - essentially, first turtle with a beak - while sinensis, meaning "from China", refers to the place where it was found by the study's lead author, Li Chun of China's Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology.

But this fossil discovery is filling in more than one gap.

Turtles are timeless, known for their protective shell that they carry around on their back, as well as their toothless beak.

Dr Nick Fraser, keeper of natural sciences at National Museums Scotland co-authored the study with colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Field Museum of Natural History and the Canadian Museum of Nature. "With Eorhynchochelys's diapsid skull, we know that turtles are not related to the early anapsid reptiles, but are instead related to evolutionarily more advanced diapsid reptiles". CNN noted that a 240-million-year-old species called Pappochelys had a "bony structure" over its belly, while Odontochelys, which existed about 20 million years later, already had a shell covering its underside, but not the carapace, or upper shell, that covers the backs of modern turtles. Its shell and its beak, of course!

Such differences in the structure of the different species suggests that they were formed in isolation from each other, so vary the characteristics of the species.

By developing a beak before other turtles, this early turtle is a prime example of mosaic evolution, in which traits evolve independently and at different times, the researchers said. Without this feature, they would be anapsids.

Researchers placing the new specimen's characteristics into the analysis with those older fossils have determined that turtles aren't as closely related to those other groups as past research suggested. "This is cemented, the debate is over", says Rieppel.

Eorhynchochelys is one kind of early turtle that scientists have discovered so far.

The discovery of the ancient turtle fossil and the team's findings will reveal how turtles managed to develop their status as diapsids, and is going to change how scientists think of this animal branch.

"The evolution of turtles remains a complex issue".