(ORDO NEWS) — Paleontologists have identified a 66.5 million-year-old creature whose fossil was discovered in North America almost half a century ago. It turned out to be an ancient tortoise with a soft shell that lived side by side with a tyrannosaurus rex and a triceratops.
The study was published in the journal Cretaceous and is briefly described by Phys.org. The creature described in the author’s article was named Hutchemys walkerorum. Its fossil was discovered back in 1975 in North Dakota.
The age of the creature is estimated at 66.5 million years, that is, it lived at the end of the Cretaceous period and was a contemporary of many famous dinosaurs. The latter are believed to have died out about 66 million years ago after a giant asteroid fell to Earth.
The description suggests that Hutchemys walkerorum is one of the oldest soft-shell turtle species. Moreover, this creature belongs to a special group of soft-bodied turtles of the Trionychidae family, called plastomenins. Visually, these ancient creatures were similar to modern soft-shelled turtles, although their natural “armor” was stronger.
According to scientists, plastomenins lived in the Cretaceous and Paleogene periods, from about 80 to 50 million years ago. This means that they managed to survive the catastrophe that led to the death of dinosaurs.
Perhaps, after the disappearance of the huge lizards, the ancient turtles reached the peak of their species diversity.
We add that the phylogenetic analysis carried out made it possible to place Hutchemys walkerorum in a separate Plastomenini group and a new subfamily, called Chitrainae. The same group includes modern narrow-headed and soft-shelled giant tortoises that live in South Asia.
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