Saturday, May 19, 2012

Proganochelys

Proganochelys quenstedti
Poor Proganochelys. For over 100 years it was the oldest turtle species ever discovered. its fossils dated back 210 million years! ...And then Odontochelys was found in 2008 with fossils 10 millions years older... and ruined that "oldest" distinction. Ah well, such is science! I'm sure even Odontochelys will be dethroned at some point; we still have such much to learn about the Earth's past.

Proganochelys fossils have been found in Germany and Thailand, and they show that this was a creature around 1m long. They look remarkably like the turtles that we have today, and even shed some light on how turtle got to be how they are.

Since it already has its shell, Proganochelys doesn't teach us much about shell evolution (Odontochelys helped a bit with that though!). It does, however, demonstrate how turtles lost their teeth very on in their evolutionary development. and it also has the large ear opening that is also found in modern turtles.

One big difference between Proganochelys and modern turtles is the retractability of the head. Our ancient friend simply could not do such a thing. But! They did have small spines on the neck to protect themselves with. Another cool difference? A spiny, clubbed tail!

Status : Extinct, lived around 210 million years ago.
Location : Germany, Thailand
Size : Length up to 3.3ft (1m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Sauropsida -- Order:  Testudines
Family : Proganochelidae -- Genus : Proganochelys -- Species : P. quenstedti

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