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Biol Lett. 2008 Jun 23;4(3):286-9. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2008.0022.

A new, nearly complete stem turtle from the Jurassic of South America with implications for turtle evolution.

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  • 1Departamento de Paleontolog√≠a, Museo de Historia Natural de San Rafael, Parque Mariano Moreno s/n, (5600) San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina.


Turtles have been known since the Upper Triassic (210Myr old); however, fossils recording the first steps of turtle evolution are scarce and often fragmentary. As a consequence, one of the main questions is whether living turtles (Testudines) originated during the Late Triassic (210Myr old) or during the Middle to Late Jurassic (ca 160Myr old). The discovery of the new fossil turtle, Condorchelys antiqua gen. et sp. nov. from the Middle to Upper Jurassic (ca 160-146Myr old) of South America (Patagonia, Argentina), presented here sheds new light on early turtle evolution. An updated cladistic analysis of turtles shows that C. antiqua and other fossil turtles are not crown turtles, but stem turtles. This cladistic analysis also shows that stem turtles were more diverse than previously thought, and that until the Middle to Upper Jurassic there were turtles without the modern jaw closure mechanism.

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