A team of scientists from Germany and the United States has made an important discovery that will help them better understand the evolution of modern turtles.
The prehistoric turtle ancestor is a species of reptile known as Pappochelys that was discovered in southern Germany.
According to the researchers, the extinct reptile lived 240 million in an ancient lake during the Middle Triassic Period.
After analyzing the fossils, the scientists concluded that the reptile is close related to two of the earliest known species of turtles, Odontochelys and Eunotosaurus.
The skull of the ancient creature suggests that turtles are related to modern reptiles like snakes and lizards.
Prior to this study, the researchers believed that turtles are actually related to the earliest known species of reptiles.
The scientists published the findings of their study in the journal Nature.
Hans-Dieter Sues, curator of vertebrate paleontology in the Department of Paleobiology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and one of the researchers involved in the study, said he analyzed dozens of species found in Germany since 2006.
The study focused on finding morphological features that would differentiate the Pappochelys creatures from other species of turtles.
Sues said that scientists have been trying to figure out how turtles developed their shells for a long time.
Talking about the Pappochelys, he said that the belly of this creature was protected by several bones that looked like rods.
The researchers believe these protective bones could have evolved into the shells of the modern turtles.
The fossils of Pappochelys confirms the fact that the belly portion of the turtle shell, which is known as the plastron, evolved from the rib-like structure combined with parts of the animal’s shoulder girdle.
The prehistoric turtle ancestor had two openings behind its eye socket on each side of the skull, which suggests that turtles did not evolve from the earliest stem reptiles, as it was previously thought.
According to the researchers, modern turtles most likely evolved from more recent species of lizards.
Pappochelys was about 8 inches long and lived in a tropical region along the shores of an ancient lake that is now the southern Germany.
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