By: Qinwei Wu
A beautifully preserved reptile was found in what is known today as Bavaria. It is a new specimen of animal. Long ago, in the Late Jurassic Period, Bavaria was a shallow tropical group of islands, full of sponge reefs.
In 1975, the fossil was originally named Solnhofia. It was a turtle and, although it is flattened, it includes the entire nine-inch animal. For decades, Solnhofia was only known for its few fossils in Bavaria and Switzerland.
A paleontologist, an author of the study of the Solnhofia at the University of Tübingen, Márton Rabi, said “It’s the most complete and best preserved one so far.”
The Solnhofen is very different from its relatives. They lacked the salt removing glands in modern sea turtles and paddles that are commonly found in open-water turtles from the Cretaceopus Period.
Dr. Rabi said, “Modern sea turtles have near global distribution and do these insanely long migrations. They’re highly adapted to a marine lifestyle. These marine Jurassic sea turtles were not capable of that.”
When the Solnhofia went extinct as the sea levels fell at the end of the Jurassic, the several animal families that they evolved in still remained. They remained throughout the extinction of dinosaurs, before finally disappearing.
According to Dr. Rabi, the closest modern animal to the Solnhofia is the Diamondback terrapin, a salt-tolerant turtle that is found along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.
“With all the ice we’re now melting, in the future we might see this again,” Dr. Rabi said.