World’s oldest fossil sea turtle discovered

London, Sep 8 (IANS) A fossil sea turtle from Colombia that is at least 120 million years old is the world’s oldest, scientists have determined.

The almost completely preserved skeleton from the Cretaceous period, with a length of nearly two metres, shows all of the characteristic traits of modern marine turtles.

“Santanachelys gaffneyi is the oldest known sea turtle” — this sentence from the online encyclopedia Wikipedia is no longer up to date.

“We described a fossil sea turtle from Colombia that is about 25 million years older,” said Edwin Cadena from Senckenberg Research Institute in Frankfurt, Germany.

“The turtle described by us as Desmatochelys padillai sp. originates from Cretaceous sediments and is at least 120 million years old,” Cadena pointed out.

The fossilised remains of the ancient reptiles were discovered in Colombia in 2007.

Cadena and his colleague examined the almost complete skeleton, four additional skulls and two partially preserved shells, and they placed the fossils in the turtle group Chelonioidea, based on various morphological characteristics.

Turtles in this group dwell in tropical and subtropical oceans; among their representatives are the modern Hawksbill Turtle and the Green Sea Turtle of turtle soup fame.

“Based on the animals’ morphology and the sediments they were found in, we are certain that we are indeed dealing with the oldest known fossil sea turtle,” Cadena noted.

The findings were detailed in the journal PaleoBios.

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