A Pancaked Turtle Perfectly Preserved in a German Rock
By: Bowen Wang
What was life like 150 million years ago? The discovery of a perfectly preserved turtle has given scientists a bit of a glimpse into this question. This turtle was found in a town in Germany, and it shows that it lived in an environment with plenty of different coral reefs and other lagoons.
This turtle was a flat-as-a-pancake specimen of Solnhofia parsonsi. Solnhofia parsoni is a genus of extinct turtles from the Late Jurassic in the German region. The turtle was named Gaffney in 1975 because of its partial skull and jaw from the early Tithonian of the Solnhofen Formation in Bavaria. “The genus was referred to the family Eurysternidae by Anquetin and colleagues in 2017, which may represent an artificial grade of early thalassochelydians. In 2020 a new species Solnhofia brachyrhyncha was described from the Kimmeridigan aged Reuchenette Formation of Switzerland.” (Wikipedia)
This fossil showed that this species of turtles had short flippers – scientists infer that it therefore lived near the coast, contrasting the modern sea turtle that lives in the open sea to be near its food. Modern sea turtles also have long flippers that help them move around quicker. “No Solnhofia individual with such completely preserved extremities has ever been described before,” says the study’s co-author and paleontologist at the University of Tübingen Felix Augustin.
The whole body is preserved beautifully, and it demonstrates as a magnificent fossil. It also preserves the turtle's magnificent long and pointed beak which is another place where it differs with the modern sea turtle. The fossil was found in present-day Germany and has provided many novel insights.
S. Parsonsi is not the only Germn fossil that has helped archaeologists. Paleontologists have dug up fossils of some of the earliest birds dating up to 150 million years ago called Archaeopteryx and numerous pterosaurs and other marine reptiles in the same area. “This area is also considered one of the most important sites for Mesozoic fossils, which began about 250 million years ago and lasted until the extinction of the dinosaurs roughly 66 million years ago” (Popular Science).