Turtles are one of the oldest species on Earth, as their first ancestors appeared during the Cretaceous period. For quite a long time, researchers thought there was only one single specimen that belonged to this category. Recently, they made an interesting discovery that consisted of a new turtle ancestor.
Another turtle ancestor added to the list
Turtles belong to that group of reptiles that had ancestors from the most ancient times. If you look at their appearance, it’s relatively easy to tell the ancient turtles lived at the same time as dinosaurs. In fact, researchers have evidence of such a creature.
The most popular turtle ancestor is Peritresius ornatus. This creature lived in North America between 100 and 66 million years ago, during what we know today as Late Cretaceous. For a long time, researchers thought this was the only turtle ancestor from this specific period. Now, they found evidence of another similar creature.
Ancient turtles could survive harsh conditions as they were capable of thermoregulation
Researcher George Martin found the fossils of this creature in Alabama, US, so it was named after him – Peritresius martini. It attracted everyone’s attention due to its size that is significantly bigger than the one of its sibling. However, unlike the well-known turtle ancestor, it had a shell without any ribs.
P. ornatus, on the other hand, had its shell decorated with many irregularities and shapes. This was a sign it was capable of thermoregulation, a factor that must have kept it alive during the harsh Cretaceous conditions when other species went extinct.
This discovery also highlights an interesting fact about turtle ancestors. At first, researchers thought this particular family wasn’t so numerous back in the Cretaceous. Now, the apparition of P. martini suggests these animals actually populated a much wider region than they had first assumed. They wrote more about this mysterious turtle ancestor in a paper published in the journal PLOS One.
Image source: Pixabay