Tuesday, 27 October 2015

76-million-year-old, pig-snouted turtle is ‘one of the weirdest turtles that ever lived’

OCTOBER 22, 2015

by Savanna Walker

A new species of turtle that lived 76 million years ago has been described as “one of the weirdest turtles that ever lived” by Joshua Lively, who studied the fossil and has recently published his analysis in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Found in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by a team from the Natural History Museum of Utah, the turtle was about two feet long, with a streamlined shell evolved for a life spent in rivers. But unlike any other turtle in history, the snout of this specimen had two openings, making it look like a turtle with a transplanted pig’s nose.

All other turtles have just one nasal opening, according to Time magazine. It’s been named Arvinachelys goldeni as a result of this strange feature, with the first part being derived from arvina, the Latin word for pig fat or bacon.

Where'd this ugly guy come from?

In the Late Cretaceous period when A. goldeni lived, western North America was an island continent named Laramidia and was separated from eastern North American by a large sea. It's already known that the dinosaurs of southern Laramidia diversified while isolated from their relatives in the northern parts of the continent, and did not seem to interbreed with the populations from the north.

With this new discovery, it would seem that the turtles of that period fit the same pattern. It's still unknown exactly why the southern populations were isolated from the north, but researchers have suggested rising sea levels and persistent climate changes prevented animals from ranging over wide sections of territory.

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