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a cretaceous turtle that sucked its prey

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A team of paleontologists announces the discovery of a new species of turtle evolving towards the end of the Cretaceous in Madagascar. According to the authors, who are based on the anatomy of its face, this reptile probably ate by taking in mouthfuls of water filled with prey.

She never strutted there about 70 million years old in the fresh waters of present-day Madagascar. The remains of this ancient turtle with a diameter of about thirty centimeters were found in 2015 when Walter Joyce and his team, from the University of Friborg, focused on the fossils of dinosaurs and crocodiles. On site, the researchers were able to recover a almost intact skeletons.

The specimen is absolutely magnificent. It is also one of the best-preserved Late Cretaceous turtles known from all southern continents.“Said Walter Joyce. “In all respects this is an exceptionally rare find“.

Suction feeding

Facies side, this former turtle now baptized Sahonachelys is cruel had a flattened skull and a rounded mouth. According to the authors, these characteristics suggest that this small reptile “sucked” its food. Thesuction feeding indeed involves a large circular opening making it possible to swallow large sips of water.

It is a specialized underwater feeding method in which the animal quickly opens its mouth and widens its throat to almost inhale a large volume of water in which several small preys swim ”, note the researchers. They can be plankton, tadpoles or even fish larvae.

This hypothesis is also based on the tongue bones of this turtle. Particularly enlarged for his size, they probably supported strong muscles allowing his throat to expand rapidly.

The parts of the skull preserved from Sahonachelys is cruel discoveries in Madagascar. Credit: Walter Joyce

These ancient turtles belonged to the family Pelomedusoidea who includes species still present today such as South American and Malagasy river turtles. “Although the group is not particularly diverse nowadays, these fossil records show that this group was much more diverse in the past, conquering several landmasses.“, Walter Joyce notes.

Researchers do not know when this “new” turtle may have emerged, nor when or why it subsequently became extinct. However, according to Joyce, she has probably survived to the great extinction event that killed the dinosaurs and ended the Cretaceous period about 66 million years ago.

You will find the details of the study in the journal Royal Society Open Science.



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