Researchers first found the reptilian fossil in the 1990s at a place called the Haţeg Basin in Romania. The remains include nearly complete sections of the turtle’s carapace (upper shell) and plastron (undershell), as well as a bone from one of its arms and another from its pelvis. Based on those body parts, the researchers estimated the turtle would have had a body length of about 7.5 inches (19 centimeters), they reported in a new study. The team named the new species Dortoka Vremiri in honor of Mátyás Vremir, a Cretaceous vertebrate expert who died in 2020.
D. vremiri belongs to a group of turtles known as side-necked turtles, of which there are 16 species living in South America, Africa and Australia. Fossils of a similar species, probably descended from D. vremiri date from around 57 million years ago, suggesting this D. vremiri survived the extinction of species at the end of the Cretaceous, which wiped out around 75% of all life Earth.
“Interestingly, members of the same turtle family did not survive this extinction event in western Europe,” says lead author Felix Augustin, a PhD student at the University of Tübingen in Germany. said in a statement. The geographic range and freshwater habitat of the newly discovered species likely helped it survive when its relatives and most terrestrial species could not, the researchers said.
The researchers believe that during the Cretaceous (145 to 66 million years ago), the Haţeg Basin was probably a separate island that later merged with Eastern Europe. This island could have been a bit isolated D. vremiri from the ecological destruction caused by the fall asteroidAugustine said in the statement.
A previously discovered ancient turtle, Kallokibotion bajazidiwho experts believe shared the island with them D. vremiri became extinct along with the dinosaurs during the Late Cretaceous. “This fits with a previously observed pattern from North American faunas, where terrestrial vertebrates were significantly more affected by the late Cretaceous extinction than freshwater species,” said co-author Zoltan Csiki-Sava, a paleontologist at the University of Bucharest in Romania.
Freshwater food chains rely on decaying aquatic organic matter, which would have continued to be abundant or possibly even increased during the late Cretaceous extinction event. However, the basis of the terrestrial food web is plants, and about half of the plant species on Earth were killed either by massive wildfires sparked by the crash or reduced sunlight from a period of global dimming that followed the initial impact and limited ability to photosynthesis. This difference in food availability is allowed D. vremiri to survive its Earth counterpart, the researchers said in the statement.
In May 2021, paleontologists discovered another Cretaceous side-necked freshwater turtle in Madagascar, which they also suspect may have survived the mass extinction event before later becoming extinct. Live Science previously reported.
Evidence that freshwater ecosystems are more resilient than terrestrial ecosystems to extinction events remains scarce, but findings like those in the new study could provide clues as to how freshwater species might fare when confronted with an imminent ecological crisis caused by human activities such as climate change is caused, senior author Márton Rabi said in the statement.
The study was published online on February 8 in Journal of Systematic Paleontology.
Originally published on Live Science.
New fossil reveals an ancient Transylvanian turtle that survived the extinction of the dinosaurs Source link New fossil reveals an ancient Transylvanian turtle that survived the extinction of the dinosaurs