What turtles looked like before the evolution of shells



This one is 240 million years old, from the Triassic period, collected in Germany. The discoverers named it Pappochelys, which is derived from Greek words for ‘grandfather’ and ‘turtle’.

These grandpa turtles were smallish, about 20 cm long, and had a hard wall of bones armoring their undersides. The shape of its skull supports theories that turtles were related to archosaurs such as dinosaurs and birds, rather than standing a branch apart, say the scientists who described the new fossil species this week in the journal Nature.


Art by Rainer Schoch

A Middle Triassic stem-turtle and the evolution of the turtle body plan by Rainer R. Schoch and Hans-Dieter Sues, Nature (2015)

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