145-million-year-old turtle found in Portugal

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Spanish paleontologists Francisco Ortega and Adan Perez-Garcia have announced that a new species of turtle, dating from 145 million years ago, has been discovered in the cliffs on a beach near Mafra on Portugal’s west coast not far north of Lisbon.

145-million-year-old turtle found in Portugal
Paleontologists Francisco Ortega and Adan Perez-Garcia display
the 145 million year turtle fossil [Credit: Portugal News]

“We knew that these turtles were only found in Europe and just in England in the Upper Cretaceous period, but this find is 80 million years older and comes from the Upper Jurassic period and is 145 million years old”, said Francisco Ortega, paleontologist and scientific director of the Torres Vedras Natural History Society.

The similarities between them, allowed scientists to understand that they belong to the same family of ‘eucryptodira’, just like modern turtles, but anatomic differences led them to conclude that this was a new species to science and named it ‘Hylaeochelys kappa’.

“It has a more primitive shape than those found in England with a flatter, rounder shell, which is not common in turtles”, he said.

This characteristic led the researchers to take the name from an episode in which 16th century Japanese confused the heads of Franciscan monks with mythological Japanese figures, ‘Kappas’, similar to turtles, as their heads were like turtle shells.

The find was an adult fresh water turtle, whose half a metre in diameter shell was found almost completely intact.

The shell was discovered in 2011 at Porto Barril beach near Mafra, by local carpenter Jose Joaquim dos Santos, who spends his free time looking for dinosaur fossils in the local cliffs.

Source: The Portugal News Online [January 16, 2014]

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