08 May 2015

Demise of an ‘indeterminate’ Plesiochelyid turtle from rising sea levels

 Photo reinterpration by Iván Gromicho

A discovery of sea turtle remains from Jaén, Baetic Cordillera adds knowledge on the oldest sea turtles that once existed on Earth millions of years ago. The supposed new species, Hispaniachelys prebetica, turned out to be a misnomer (i.e. deemed invalid) upon reinterpretation of the sole specimen from Jaén. Since evidence is meager, the sea turtle fossil is classified as an ‘inderterminate’ species of Plesiochelyidae, a diverse group of reptiles from the European Jurassic. This means that the specimen possibly fits in one of the previously defined species of the group [1,2].

As experts point out, the Plesiochelyids from 160 million years ago certainly do not resemble sea turtles today. Growing evidence obtained from Spain supports this claim. Unlike that of the agile, migratory, adventurous sea turtles we see today, the first European sea turtles’ anatomy –unfortunately - restricted them to the coastlines. This constraint and the changing sea levels that occurred 145 million years ago obliterated them [1,2]. That’s natural selection, after all.

Currrently, scientists are working to unravel the diversity in Plesiochelyids.

To ponder more on Plesiochelyidea, refer to the link http://www.bioone.org/doi/pdf/10.4202/app.2012.0115. SeaLifeBase also has information for the 7 living species of sea turtles. Happy learning everyone!

[1] Plataforma SINC (2015, March 23). First European sea turtles became extinct due to changing sea levels. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/03/150318074232.htm

[2] Pérez-García, A. (2014). Reinterpretation of the Spanish Late Jurassic “Hispaniachelys prebetica” as an indeterminate Plesiochelyid turtle. Acta Paleontologica Polonica 59(4):879-885.

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