Turtle fossil discovery

Researchers recently uncovered a transitional turtle fossil in China.

From the three Odontochely fossils discovered in China, [Li Chun at the Chinese Academy of Sciences] said it was clear the turtle first developed the plastron, or the lower shell that encases the belly, before getting its upper shell, or the carapace.

“The plastron developed first and after it was fully formed, then the carapace developed,” he said.

The reason this is an excellent example of a transitional form is that what we see is basically a turtle without a back shell. It is still clearly a turtle, just not one that is much like what we see today. It seems appropriate that we’re finally discovering these turtle fossils as we close in on the 150th anniversary of On the Origin of Species.

So what we have is a turtle which has body armor on its lower body with the neural plates that were likely predecessors to the fuller body armor found in its modern day descendents. In addition, we see that the order of turtle armor evolution – plastron followed by carapace (its back, essentially) fits perfectly with their embryology: during development, the plastron precedes the carapace.

Turtles, wee!

Do you feel the invigoration?