Fossils of Turtle Species that Coexisted with Dinosaurs Discovered

Polysternon IsonaeReconstruction of the turtle species Polysternon Isonae based on fossilized remains recovered in Isona, Spain. Photo by Óscar Sansidro.

Fossils of Turtle Species that Coexisted with Dinosaurs Discovered
The Polysternon Isonae was half a meter long and lived in fresh water
El País: Hallan los restos fósiles de una tortuga que convivió con los dinosaurios
Lluís Visa reporting from Lleida, Catalonia, Spain February 24, 2012

At a excavation site in Isona i Conca Dellà (Pallars Jussà), a team of Catalonian paleontologists discovered the fossilized remains of a new turtle species that coexisted with dinosaurs and was extinguished along with them, unlike other chelonian species.

This turtle, christened the Polysternon Isonae, was half a meter long and lived in fresh water 65 million years ago, when the elevated mountains that now contain the fossils were still an enormous coastal plain open to the Atlantic Ocean, with a much warmer tropical climate and abundant vegetation, including palm trees.

This territory was not only inhabited by dinosaurs but also by crocodiles, fish, and other animal species whose fossilized remains are coming to light thanks to years of excavation campaigns. The Tremp basin is one of the zones with the greatest concentrations of fossils; it has yielded dozens of deposits with the bones, footprints, and eggs of the last dinosaurs to walk the earth.

The turtles were an important element of these ecosystems; their fossilized remains are abundant in these deposits in the Pyrenees and basically consist of carapace shells, either isolated or in small groupings that help teach about the morphology and size of this animal. That said, whole shells and inner skeletons of the species are infrequently discovered.

The fairly complete remains found in the Torrebilles Ravine during excavation campaigns in 2008 and 2009 made descriptions of this new species of turtle possible. Two other species of the genus Polysternon have been discovered, the provinciale atlanticum, and mechinorum is a possible third. These turtles lived in an area that now corresponds with southern France and the Iberian Peninsula. They were adapted to swimming and lived in fresh water and the deep waters of rivers and lakes. The samples discovered until now indicate the beasts had oval shells and were 50 cm long and 40 cm wide.

Polysternon Isonae FossilsThe fossilized remains of the turtle.  Picture courtesy of the journal Cretaceous Research.

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