Turtle shell mystery

Boffins studying the ancient ancestor of modern turtles have discovered how the turtle’s shell came to evolve.

This month experts say their finds have shed light on a 30-55 million year gap in the history of the reptilem based on studying an extinct ancestral turtle from South Africa called Eunotosaurus.

Tyler Lyson of the Smithsonian and Yale said: “The turtle shell is a complex structure that started evolving over 260 million years ago.”

A turtle’s shell isn’t one thing it is actually a fusion of 50 bones – ribs and vertebrae.

The expert said very few animals have evolved like this because fusing the ribs together make it very hard to breathe – only turtles and tortoises have found a way.

The discovery of Eunotosaurus – a fossil where the bones are clearly visible in comprising the shell. Prior to that other ancient turtles discovered only had a partial carapace.


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