Scientists have discovered a natural fossil, which thrived in the period of dinosaur’s. It thrived in the period of 260 million to 220 million years ago and has helped scientists fill the void of 40 million years in between to evaluate the history of evolution of the turtle shell.
The 240 million years old fossil has been found in a limestone quarry in Germany.
This transitional species has been nick named the ‘grandfather turtle’ because it has evolved from reptiles and is the ancestor of the turtle.
The origin of the turtle shell has long bewildered scientists. Though they had fossils of turtle predecessors from the beginning and the end of the Triassic period, there was little evidence of what happened to ancient turtles during the intervening years, reports Washington Post.
The newly discovered fossil of the ‘grandfather turtle’ existed exactly between the soft-backed reptiles and the hard-shelled turtles.
After analyzing 18 different fossil skeletons of this species, the scientists came to the conclusion that this species is a ‘middle man’.
The grandfather turtle has been described as having broad and sturdy ribs, the fossil also reveals a bony plate protecting its underside.
“It has real beginnings of the belly shell developing, little rib-like structures beginning to fuse together into larger plates and then ultimately making up the belly shell” stated Hans Dieter Sue, a curator at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in DC and the study co-author.
This creature proves that the evolution of today’s turtles was from their ancient lizard ancestors, stated by Rainer R. Schoch, paleontologist at the Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde in Stuttgart and another study author.
Schoch said the discovery of transitional creatures is the most important contribution that paleontology can make to the study of evolution.
“Hopefully we’ll find more,” Robert Reisz, a paleontologist at the University of Toronto, told National Geographic. “We’re closing the gap, but there is still a big morphological gap between this turtle and its non-turtle ancestors.”