An early bothremydid (Testudines, Pleurodira) from the Late Cretaceous (Cenomanian) of Utah, North America.
ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND:Bothremydidae is a clade of extinct pleurodiran turtles known from the Cretaceous to Paleogene of Africa, Europe, India, Madagascar, and North and South America. The group is most diverse during the Late Cretaceous to Paleogene of Africa. Little is known, however, about the early evolution of the group. METHODS:We here figure and describe a fossil turtle from early Late Cretaceous deposits exposed at MacFarlane Mine in Cedar Canyon, southwestern Utah, USA. The sediments associated with the new turtle are utilized to infer its stratigraphic provenience and the depositional settings in which it was deposited. The fossil is compared to previously described fossil pleurodires, integrated into a modified phylogenetic analysis of pelomedusoid turtles, and the biogeography of bothremydid turtles is reassessed. In light of the novel phylogenetic hypotheses, six previously established taxon names are converted to phylogenetically defined clade names to aid communication. RESULTS:The new fossil turtle can be inferred with confidence to have originated from a brackish water facies within the late Cenomanian Culver Coal Zone of the Naturita Formation. The fossil can be distinguished from all other previously described pleurodires and is therefore designated as a new taxon, Paiutemys tibert gen. et. sp. nov. Phylogenetic analysis places the new taxon as sister to the European Polysternon provinciale, Foxemys trabanti and Foxemys mechinorum at the base of Bothremydinae. Biogeographic analysis suggests that bothremydids originated as continental turtles in Gondwana, but that bothremydines adapted to near-shore marine conditions and therefore should be seen as having a circum-Atlantic distribution.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Proterochersis robusta from the Late Triassic (Middle Norian) of Germany is the oldest known fossil turtle (i.e. amniote with a fully formed turtle shell), but little is known about its anatomy. A newly prepared, historic specimen provides novel insights into the morphology of the girdles and vertebral column of this taxon and the opportunity to reassess its phylogenetic position. RESULTS: The anatomy of the pectoral girdle of P. robusta is similar to that of other primitive turtles, including the Late Triassic (Carnian) Proganochelys quenstedti, in having a vertically oriented scapula, a large coracoid foramen, a short acromion process, and bony ridges that connect the acromion process with the dorsal process, glenoid, and coracoid, and by being able to rotate along a vertical axis. The pelvic elements are expanded distally and suturally attached to the shell, but in contrast to modern pleurodiran turtles the pelvis is associated with the sacral ribs. CONCLUSIONS: The primary homology of the character "sutured pelvis" is unproblematic between P. robusta and extant pleurodires. However, integration of all new observations into the most complete phylogenetic analysis that support the pleurodiran nature of P. robusta reveals that this taxon is more parsimoniously placed along the phylogenetic stem of crown Testudines. All current phylogenetic hypotheses therefore support the basal placement of this taxon, imply that the sutured pelvis of this taxon developed independently from that of pleurodires, and conclude that the age of the turtle crown is Middle Jurassic.
Project description:Sandownidae is an enigmatic group of Cretaceous-Paleogene turtles with highly derived cranial anatomy. Although sandownid monophyly is not debated, relationships with other turtles remain unclear. Sandownids have been recovered in significantly different parts of the turtle tree: as stem-turtles, stem-cryptodires and stem-chelonioid sea turtles. Latest phylogenetic studies find sandownids as the sister-group of the Late Jurassic thalassochelydians and as stem-turtles. Here, we provide a detailed study of the cranial and mandibular anatomy of Sandownia harrisi from the Aptian of the Isle of Wight, based on high resolution computed tomography scanning of the holotype. Our results confirm a high number of anatomical similarities with thalassochelydians and particularly Solnhofia parsonsi, which is interpreted as an early member of the sandownid lineage. Sandownids + Solnhofia show many cranial modifications related to the secondary palate and a durophagous diet. Sandownia is additionally highly derived in features related to its arterial circulation and neuroanatomy, including the endosseous labyrinth. Our results imply rapid morphological evolution during the early history of sandownids. Sandownids likely evolved in central Europe from thalassochelydian ancestors during the Late Jurassic. The durophagous diet of sandownids possibly facilitated their survival of the Cretaceous/Paleogene mass extinction.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Manchurochelys manchoukuoensis is an emblematic turtle from the Cretaceous Yixian Formation of Liaoning, China, a geological rock unit that is famous for yielding perfectly preserved skeletons of fossil vertebrates, including that of feathered dinosaurs. Manchurochelys manchoukuoensis was one of the first vertebrates described from this fauna, also known as the Jehol Biota. The holotype was lost during World War II and only one additional specimen has been described since. Manchurochelys manchoukuoensis is a critical taxon for unraveling the phylogenetic relationships of Cretaceous pancryptodires from Asia, a group that is considered to be of key importance for the origin of crown-group hidden-neck turtles (Cryptodira). RESULTS: A new specimen of Manchurochelys manchoukuoensis is described here from the Jiufotang Formation of Qilinshan, Chifeng, Inner Mongolia, China. This is the third specimen described and expands the range of this taxon from the Yixian Formation of the Fuxin-Yixian Basin in Liaoning to the Jiufotang Formation of the Chifeng-Yuanbaoshan Basin. A possible temporal extension of the range is less certain. The new finding adds to our understanding of the morphology of this taxon and invites a thorough revision of the phylogeny of Macrobaenidae, Sinemydidae, and closely allied forms. CONCLUSIONS: Our comprehensive phylogenetic analyses of Cretaceous Asian pancryptodires yielded two main competing hypotheses: in the first these taxa form a paraphyletic grade, whereas in the second they form a monophyletic clade. The inclusion of problematic tree changing taxa, such as Panpleurodires (stem?+?crown side-neck turtles) has a major influence on the phylogenetic relationships of Sinemydidae and closely allied forms. Manchurochelys manchoukuoensis nests within Sinemydidae together with Sinemys spp. and Dracochelys bicuspis in the majority of our analyses.
Project description:Pleurodires or side-necked turtles are today restricted to freshwater environments of South America, Africa-Madagascar and Australia, but in the past they were distributed much more broadly, being found also on Eurasia, India and North America, and marine environments. Two hypotheses were proposed to explain this distribution; in the first, vicariance would have shaped the current geographical distribution and, in the second, extinctions constrained a previously widespread distribution. Here, we aim to reconstruct pleurodiran biogeographic history and diversification patterns based on a new phylogenetic hypothesis recovered from the analysis of the largest morphological dataset yet compiled for the lineage, testing which biogeographical process prevailed during its evolutionary history. The resulting topology generally agrees with previous hypotheses of the group and shows that most diversification shifts were related to the exploration of new niches, e.g. littoral or marine radiations. In addition, as other turtles, pleurodires do not seem to have been much affected by either the Cretaceous-Palaeogene or the Eocene-Oligocene mass extinctions. The biogeographic analyses highlight the predominance of both anagenetic and cladogenetic dispersal events and support the importance of transoceanic dispersals as a more common driver of area changes than previously thought, agreeing with previous studies with other non-turtle lineages.
Project description:Background:Jainemys pisdurensis comb. nov. is an extinct pleurodiran turtle from the Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) of India, previously referred to Carteremys and Shweboemys. The holotype, an eroded skull, had been collected near the village of Pisdura, south of Nagpur, in Maharashtra State, while all referred shell material originates from coeval sediments exposed at the nearby village of Dongargaon. Initial estimates believed this turtle to either be an early representative of Podocnemididae or a basal representative of Pelomedusoides. Methods:We here figure and describe all specimens that had previously been referred to Jainemys pisdurensis comb. nov. We furthermore re-evaluate the validity of this fossil turtle and explore its phylogenetic relationships within Pleurodira. Results:The holotype of Jainemys pisdurensis comb. nov. displays a morphology that differs substantially from that originally reported. Most notably, the palatines only have a minor contribution to the broad triturating surfaces but have a broad midline contact with each other, the pterygoids only have a midline contact of intermediate length and do not contact the opisthotics posteriorly, the basisphenoid is broad and short, and the opisthotics do not contribute to the flooring of the cavum acustico-jugulare. The referred shell material also displays a morphology different from that reported originally, in particular in that vertebral I does not contribute to the anterior margin of the carapace while the nuchal does. Phylogenetic analysis places the cranial material within the bothremydid clade Kurmademydini, while the shell material is placed in an unresolved polytomy at the base of this clade. Jainemys pisdurensis is confirmed to be a valid species of pleurodiran turtle, but the high diversity of coeval kurmademydines in India demands removal of the postcranial remains from this taxon. The realization that all valid species of Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) turtles from India form a clade supports the hypothesis that India was physically separated from the rest of Gondwana at this time.
Project description:Background:Helopanoplia distincta is an extinct soft-shelled turtle (Pan-Trionychidae) for which the type specimen is a fragmentary costal and the inguinal notch portion of the left hypoplastron from the Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) Lance Formation of Wyoming, USA that bear a distinct surface sculpture pattern consisting of raised tubercles. Over the course of the past few decades, a number of additional, fragmentary specimens from the Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) Hell Creek Formation of Montana and North Dakota have been referred to this taxon based on the presence of these tubercles, but a more complete understanding of the anatomy and phylogenetic relationships of this distinctive soft-shelled turtle is still outstanding. Methods:We here figure and describe shell remains of eight fossils referable to Helopanoplia distincta from the Hell Creek Formation of Montana and North Dakota that, in combination, document nearly all aspects of the shell morphology of this taxon. We furthermore explore the relationships of this fossil turtle by inserting it into a modified phylogenetic analysis of pan-trionychid relationships. Results:The new fossil material thoroughly supports the validity of Helopanoplia distincta. In addition to its unique surface sculpture pattern, this turtle can be diagnosed relative to all other named pan-trionychids by the presence of a distinct corner along the margin of costals II, the complete covering of costal ribs I-VI by metaplastic bone, midline contact of the main plastral elements, hyoplastral shoulder, presence of a lateral, upturned margin on the hyo/hypoplastron that is covered dorsally and laterally by sculptured metaplastic bone, a single, lateral hyoplastral process, and the apomorphic presence of fine scallops along the margin of costals VIII, formation of a laterally embraced, rounded nuchal, anteriorly rounded costals I, distally expanded costals II, and narrow costals VII. A phylogenetic analysis places Helopanoplia distincta as sister to the clade formed by Plastomenus thomasii and Hutchemys spp., thereby confirming its identity as a plastomenid. The vast majority of Helopanoplia distincta material has been recovered from fine-grained overbank deposits, thereby supporting the hypothesis that this turtle favored ponded waters.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Secondary adaptation to aquatic life occurred independently in several amniote lineages, including reptiles during the Mesozoic and mammals during the Cenozoic. These evolutionary shifts to aquatic environments imply major morphological modifications, especially of the feeding apparatus. Mesozoic (250-65 Myr) marine reptiles, such as ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, mosasaurid squamates, crocodiles, and turtles, exhibit a wide range of adaptations to aquatic feeding and a broad overlap of their tooth morphospaces with those of Cenozoic marine mammals. However, despite these multiple feeding behavior convergences, suction feeding, though being a common feeding strategy in aquatic vertebrates and in marine mammals in particular, has been extremely rarely reported for Mesozoic marine reptiles. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: A relative of fossil protostegid and dermochelyoid sea turtles, Ocepechelon bouyai gen. et sp. nov. is a new giant chelonioid from the Late Maastrichtian (67 Myr) of Morocco exhibiting remarkable adaptations to marine life (among others, very dorsally and posteriorly located nostrils). The 70-cm-long skull of Ocepechelon not only makes it one of the largest marine turtles ever described, but also deviates significantly from typical turtle cranial morphology. It shares unique convergences with both syngnathid fishes (unique long tubular bony snout ending in a rounded and anteriorly directed mouth) and beaked whales (large size and elongated edentulous jaws). This striking anatomy suggests extreme adaptation for suction feeding unmatched among known turtles. CONCLUSION/SIGNIFICANCE: The feeding apparatus of Ocepechelon, a bony pipette-like snout, is unique among tetrapods. This new taxon exemplifies the successful systematic and ecological diversification of chelonioid turtles during the Late Cretaceous. This new evidence for a unique trophic specialization in turtles, along with the abundant marine vertebrate faunas associated to Ocepechelon in the Late Maastrichtian phosphatic beds of Morocco, further supports the hypothesis that marine life was, at least locally, very diversified just prior to the Cretaceous/Palaeogene (K/Pg) biotic crisis.
Project description:Knowledge of the early evolution of sea turtles (Chelonioidea) has been limited by conflicting phylogenetic hypotheses resulting from sparse taxon sampling and a superficial understanding of the morphology of key taxa. This limits our understanding of evolutionary adaptation to marine life in turtles, and in amniotes more broadly. One problematic group are the protostegids, Early-Late Cretaceous marine turtles that have been hypothesised to be either stem-cryptodires, stem-chelonioids, or crown-chelonioids. Different phylogenetic hypotheses for protostegids suggest different answers to key questions, including (1) the number of transitions to marine life in turtles, (2) the age of the chelonioid crown-group, and (3) patterns of skeletal evolution during marine adaptation. We present a detailed anatomical study of one of the earliest protostegids, Rhinochelys pulchriceps from the early Late Cretaceous of Europe, using high-resolution ?CT. We synonymise all previously named European species and document the variation seen among them. A phylogeny of turtles with increased chelonioid taxon sampling and revised postcranial characters is provided, recovering protostegids as stem-chelonioids. Our results imply a mid Early Cretaceous origin of total-group chelonioids and an early Late Cretaceous age for crown-chelonioids, which may inform molecular clock analyses in future. Specialisations of the chelonioid flipper evolved in a stepwise-fashion, with innovations clustered into pulses at the origin of total-group chelonioids, and subsequently among dermochelyids, crown-cheloniids, and gigantic protostegids from the Late Cretaceous.
Project description:The discovery of a new stem turtle from the Middle Jurassic (Bathonian) deposits of the Isle of Skye, Scotland, sheds new light on the early evolutionary history of Testudinata. Eileanchelys waldmani gen. et sp. nov. is known from cranial and postcranial material of several individuals and represents the most complete Middle Jurassic turtle described to date, bridging the morphological gap between basal turtles from the Late Triassic-Early Jurassic and crown-group turtles that diversify during the Late Jurassic. A phylogenetic analysis places the new taxon within the stem group of Testudines (crown-group turtles) and suggests a sister-group relationship between E. waldmani and Heckerochelys romani from the Middle Jurassic of Russia. Moreover, E. waldmani also demonstrates that stem turtles were ecologically diverse, as it may represent the earliest known aquatic turtle.
Project description:Resolving the phylogeny of sea turtles is uniquely challenging given the high potential for the unification of convergent lineages due to systematic homoplasy. Equivocal reconstructions of marine turtle evolution subsequently inhibit efforts to establish fossil calibrations for molecular divergence estimates and prevent the accurate reconciliation of biogeographic or palaeoclimatic data with phylogenetic hypotheses. Here we describe a new genus and species of marine turtle, Asmodochelys parhami, from the Upper Campanian Demopolis Chalk of Alabama and Mississippi, USA represented by three partial shells. Phylogenetic analysis shows that A. parhami belongs to the ctenochelyids, an extinct group that shares characteristics with both pan-chelonioids and pan-cheloniids. In addition to supporting Ctenochelyidae as a sister taxon of Chelonioidea, our analysis places Protostegidae outside of the Chelonioidea crown group and recovers Allopleuron hofmanni as a stem dermochelyid. Gap excess ratio (GER) results indicate a strong stratigraphic congruence of our phylogenetic hypothesis; however, the highest GER value is associated with the phylogenetic hypothesis of marine turtles which excludes Protostegidae from the Cryptodira crown group. Ancestral range estimations derived from our phylogeny imply a European or North American origin of Chelonioidea in the middle-to-late Campanian, approximately 20 Myr earlier than current molecular divergence studies suggest.