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A Pancaked Turtle Fossil’s 150-Million-Year-Old Tale

By: Candace Lu

In a shallow tropical archipelago ringed with sponge reefs, which is now modern day Bavaria, a species of side-necked turtle dies in hyper-saline, oxygen-poor waters. These waters would protect her body from scavengers trying to disturb it for the 150 million years to come, before paleontologists find her well preserved fossil.

The Solnhofen Limestone has produced many complete fossils, from marine animals to feathered dinosaurs. Their recent discovery, a solnhofia parsonsi, is a type of side necked turtle from the late jurassic era. The excavation unearthed the most well preserved individual of its species. Due to the preservation, anatomists unfortunately cannot dissect the bones and study the details of its biology. We do know that Solnhofia is a species of turtle that tucks its head alongside its shell instead of withdrawing it. Furthermore, it has shorter, stumpier limbs, indicating that it swam in coastal waters rather than the deep ocean.

Scientists are still trying to deduce the S. parsonsi’s diet and internal structures. Moreover, they are attempting to reconstruct the ecosystem as a whole to show the diversity, how it functioned, and what different constituents of the ecosystems were present during the Late Jurassic.

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