HomeScience and Nature Dinosaur-Era Fossil Bridges Gap in Evolution of Extinct Baenid Turtles

Dinosaur-Era Fossil Bridges Gap in Evolution of Extinct Baenid Turtles

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Edowa zuniensis is the first species of baenid turtle described from the Turonian age of North America.

Life reconstruction of Edowa zuniensis. Image credit: Brenton Adrian.

“Turtles have been on Earth for about 260 million years, making them older than dinosaurs,” said Arizona State University Ph.D. student Brenton Adrian.

“They can live almost anywhere and scientists can learn a lot about the environments they thrived in and the water quality of those environments.”

The newly-identified turtle species, Edowa zuniensis, roamed our planet during the Turonian age of the Cretaceous period, around 90 million years ago.

“Edowa zuniensis would have lived among dinosaurs, including the tyrannosauroid Suskityrannus, the ceratopsian Zuniceratops and the therizinosaur Nothronychus,” Adrian said.

The new species belonged to Baenidae, an extinct family of paracryptodiran turtles known from North America.

“Edowa zuniensis fills an enormous gap in our understanding of the evolution of this native group of turtles,” Adrian said.

“It shows that advanced traits evolved significantly earlier and in a wider distribution than previously expected.”

Edowa zuniensis. Image credit: Adrian et al., doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2022.105422.

The fossilized remains of Edowa zuniensis were recovered from the Moreno Hill Formation in the Zuni Basin of western New Mexico, the United States, in the 1990s.

They are remarkable because most of both the top and the bottom part of the turtle’s shell was found.

“Turtle shells are made of bone, and the baenid turtle’s shell is fused and does not have sutures,” Adrian said.

He and his colleagues were also able to determine this particular individual of Edowa zuniensi was attacked by a crocodile at some point and infected by ectoparasites based on trace fossils on its shell.

“Turtles are a group that give us a particular insight into the environment at the time,” Adrian said.

“Whereas with, for example, a T. rex fossil, we know that they only ate meat and large quantities of it.”

“But with a turtle, they occupied every habitat that reptiles are able to fill for a very long time,” he added.

“So we know how they operate in ecosystems.”

The findings will appear in the April 2023 issue of the journal Cretaceous Research.


Brent Adrian et al. 2023. A new baenid, Edowa zuniensis gen. et sp. nov., and other fossil turtles from the Upper Cretaceous Moreno Hill Formation (Turonian), New Mexico, USA. Cretaceous Research 144: 105422; doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2022.105422

Source : Breaking Science News

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