‘Grandfather Turtle’ Unearthed, a 20-centimetre Triassic Period Reptile
The origin and evolution of turtles stands revealed as the scientists claim to have unearthed the oldest-known turtle, called the ‘grandfather turtle’. The fossil of the 20-centimetre long, Triassic Period reptile has been unearthed in a quarry in southern Germany.
The reptile is scientifically named; Pappochelys and the palaeontologists have discovered 18 such fossil skeletons. The fossil reveals that the ‘grandfather turtle’ had a long tail and a broad trunk topped by a small, round head. It supported a lizard-like skull with numerous peg-like teeth suitable for eating insects and small lizards. However, the grandfather seems to have no shell!
The report published in the journal Nature on Wednesday dispels previous speculations that linked ancestry of turtles to birds and dinosaurs. The report asserts that the skull skeleton discovered supports the theories which claim that the turtles are more closely related to snakes and lizards.
Rainer Schoch, palaeontologist, Germany’s State Museum of Natural History, Stuttgart stated,” Pappochelys indeed forms a missing link for two reasons. It is far older than all so far known turtles. And its anatomy is more primitive in many features, showing the ancestral condition of various body regions”.
Schoch further claimed that the Pappochely is a transitional creature between lizard-like ancestors and later turtles and it provides a much clearer picture of turtle evolution.
Hans-Dieter Sues, palaeontologist, Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History and the study co-author asserted that the revelation was an important stage in the evolution of the turtle shell. Sues informed that the fossil analyses have shown that the belly armour of this turtle was composed of thick, rib-like bones that were beginning to fuse with each other in many places.
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