Recently, a team of researchers has discovered a new ancestor of the modern turtle that dates back to the Late Cretaceous period. This is a new species that is closely related to the sea turtles that we have today. It’s interesting that experts thought that modern turtles originated from one single ancestor from about 100 to 66 million years ago. Its name was Peritresius and according to previous studies, it only lived in North America. However, the fact that the team has recently discovered the specimens in the southeastern part of the United States proves that the species lived in a lot more areas than previously thought.
In order to come up with this conclusion, the team of researchers analyzed some fossils of sea turtles from marine sediments found in Mississippi and Alabama. It seems that some of the fossils in Alabama belonged to a completely new species. The researchers named it Peritresius martini, after the man who discovered the fossils, George Martin. They based their discovery mostly on the shape of the turtle’s shell and other important anatomical features. But the team wanted to find out more about this new species.
New species of turtle discovered
So, they compared the newfound species with Peritresius ornatus, an already existent turtle species. They found that the shell of the P. ornatus and the blood vessels on it allowed it to survive by maintaining their internal core temperature. This is most likely why this species was able to keep warm and survived the extreme cold from the Cretaceous period. Many other marine turtles went extinct because of this exact same reason. They couldn’t resist the extreme cold.
This discovery is very interesting because it provides an insight into the evolutionary history of sea turtles. And it seems that Alabama is one of the best places on Earth to study ancient turtles.
Image source: flickr