Huge deposit of Jurassic turtle remains found in China

Oct 29, 2012

Paleontologists from University of Tübingen and Berlin Natural History Mu-seum can make first statistical analysis of ancient species.

"Bones upon bones, we couldn't believe our eyes," says Oliver Wings, paleontologist and guest researcher at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin. He was describing the spectacular find of some 1800 fossilized mesa chelonia turtles from the Jurassic era in China's northwest province of Xinjiang. Wings and the University of Tübingen's fossil turtle specialist, Dr. Walter Joyce, were working with Chinese paleontologists there in 2008. The results of their further work in 2009 and 2011 have just been published in the German journal "Naturwissenschaften."

"This site has probably more than doubled the known number of individual turtles from the Jurassic," says Walter Joyce. "Some of the shells were stacked up on top of one another in the rock." It is what paleontologists call a "bone bed" – in this case consisting only of turtle remains.

Wings, Joyce and their team have made several expeditions to the arid region since 2007, finding fossil sharks, , mammals and several dinosaur skeletons. Today one of the world's driest regions, 160 million years ago Xinjiang was a green place of lakes and rivers, bursting with life. Yet the scientists have shown that even then, conditions were not always ideal, with climate change leading to seasonal drought – and this remarkable fossil find.

The turtles had gathered in one of the remaining waterholes during a very dry period, awaiting rain. Today's turtles in Australia for instance do the same thing. But for the Xinjiang turtles, the rain came too late. Many of the turtles were already dead and their bodies rotting. When the water arrived, it came with a vengeance: a river of mud, washing the turtles and sediments along with it and dumping them in one place, as the paleontologists read the site and its layers of stone.

The large number of turtles allows the researchers to make a first statistical analysis of Asian in the Jurassic period. Their simultaneous death and preservation makes it possible to compare variability, growth, and morphological differences among the species. The scientists are looking for sponsors to support further field studies and research into the dinosaur finds.

Explore further: Cougars' diverse diet helped them survive the Pleistocene mass extinction

Related Stories

Oldest sea turtle fossil unveiled in Mexico

Mar 06, 2009

Paleontologists on Thursday unveiled the oldest fossil remains of a sea turtle that lived 72 million years ago in northern Mexico, the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) said.

Tough turtles survive cretaceous meteorite impact

Jul 12, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- New fossil localities from North Dakota and Montana have produced the remains of a turtle that survived the 65 million-year-old meteorite impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. The resulting ...

Turtles caught in the cold to rehab

Dec 28, 2005

Ridley turtles and an 88-pound loggerhead turtle named Bruiser are expected to spend winter in rehabilitation in New York after being caught in the cold.

Rare turtles returned to the Philippines

Apr 27, 2012

Thirty-one live turtles, including some rare species, that were smuggled to Hong Kong were flown back to the Philippines on Friday but five others did not live to make the trip, an official said.

Recommended for you

Archaeologists, tribe clash over Native remains

7 hours ago

Archaeologists and Native Americans are clashing over Indian remains and artifacts that were excavated during a construction project in the San Francisco Bay Area, but then reburied at an undisclosed location.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Not just the poor live hand-to-mouth

When the economy hits the skids, government stimulus checks to the poor sometimes follow. Stimulus programs—such as those in 2001, 2008 and 2009—are designed to boost the economy quickly by getting cash ...

Male-biased tweeting

Today women take an active part in public life. Without a doubt, they also converse with other women. In fact, they even talk to each other about other things besides men. As banal as it sounds, this is far ...

Archaeologists, tribe clash over Native remains

Archaeologists and Native Americans are clashing over Indian remains and artifacts that were excavated during a construction project in the San Francisco Bay Area, but then reburied at an undisclosed location.

Math modeling handbook now available

Math comes in handy for answering questions about a variety of topics, from calculating the cost-effectiveness of fuel sources and determining the best regions to build high-speed rail to predicting the spread ...