Turtles did not always have shells. Image Credit: Field Museum / IVPP
Scientists have discovered the fossil remains of an ancient turtle with a toothless beak and no shell.
Dating back 228 million years, the fossil was recently unearthed in China's Guizhou province.
The species has been named Eorhynchochelys sinensis
, or "Dawn turtle with a beak from China".
"This creature was over six feet long, it had a strange disc-like body and a long tail, and the anterior part of its jaws developed into this strange beak," said Olivier Rieppel of Chicago's Field Museum.
"It probably lived in shallow water and dug in the mud for food."
In modern turtles, the shell is particularly important because it not only provides the animal with physical protection but can also help to prevent a build-up of lactic acid while underwater.
It isn't clear exactly when the shell first evolved, however this newly discovered species appeared to be on the verge of developing one.
"The origin of turtles has been an unsolved problem in palaeontology for many decades," said Rieppel.
"Now with Eorhynchochelys
, how turtles evolved has become a lot clearer."
Source: Phys.org | Comments (6)