New Ancestor Of Modern Turtles Found In Alabama

Posted: Apr 20 2018, 2:11am CDT | by , Updated: Apr 20 2018, 4:05am CDT, in News | Latest Science News

New Ancestor of Modern Turtles Found in Alabama
Reconstruction of the new species (Peritresius martini). Credit: Drew Gentry

The new species came from Late Cretaceous epoch

Researchers have discovered a new species of turtle that dates back to Late Cretaceous epoch. The species is closely related to today’s sea turtles and represent a new ancestor of its modern counterparts.

Modern-day sea turtles were thought to have originated from a single ancestor the Peritresius clade during the Late Cretaceous epoch, about 100 to 66 million years ago. Prior studies have suggested that Peritresius were exclusively found in North America. However, recently discovered specimens in the southeastern United States show that the genus was more widely distributed and not confined to a specific region.

In the latest study, researchers analyzed sea turtle fossils collected from marine sediments in Alabama and Mississippi and found that some of the Alabama fossils belong to an entirely new species. They named it Peritresius martini after Mr. George Martin who discovered the fossils. The findings are based on anatomical features including the shape of the turtle's shell. When researchers compared the features of the newfound species with Peritresius ornatus, they noted that the shell of P. ornatus have sculptured skin elements with blood vessels, which allowed their bodies to maintain their internal core temperature or thermoregulation. This is likely the reason why Peritresius kept warm and survived the extreme cold conditions during the Cretaceous period, unlike many other extinct marine turtles.

The discovery suggests that Peritresius clade involves two anatomically distinct species from the Late Cretaceous epoch and provides new insight into the evolutionary history of living species of sea turtles.

Drew Gentry from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Alabama says. "This discovery not only answers several important questions about the distribution and diversity of sea turtles during this period but also provides further evidence that Alabama is one of the best places in the world to study some of the earliest ancestors of modern sea turtles.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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