Ancient turtle had a frisbee-shaped body – but no shell

An artist’s impression of the new species of turtle. Photo: PA
An artist’s impression of the new species of turtle. Photo: PA

A “turtle” that lived more than 200 million years ago had a frisbee-shaped body but no shell, scientists have discovered.

The newly named species, Eorhynchochelys sinensis, had evolved a toothless beak but not the other turtle hallmark, a protective shell.

Palaeontologist Dr Olivier Rieppel, from the Field Museum in Chicago, US, said: “This creature was over six feet long, it had a strange disc-like body and a long tail, and the anterior part of its jaws developed into this strange beak. It probably lived in shallow water and dug in the mud for food.”

A complete fossilised skeleton of E. sinensis was found embedded in 228 million-year-old rocks in Guizhou Province, China. The creature is described in the latest issue of the journal ‘Nature’.

Dr Rieppel added: “The origin of turtles has been an unsolved problem in palaeontology for many decades. Now with Eorhynchochelys, how turtles evolved has become a lot clearer.”

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Irish Independent

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