Walter G. Joyce, Tyler R. Lyson & James I. Kirkland (2016)
An early bothremydid (Testudines, Pleurodira) from the Late Cretaceous (Cenomanian) of Utah, North America.
Bothremydidae is a clade of extinct pleurodiran turtles known from the Cretaceous to Paleogene of Africa, Europe, India, Madagascar, and North and South America. The group is most diverse during the Late Cretaceous to Paleogene of Africa. Little is known, however, about the early evolution of the group.
We here figure and describe a fossil turtle from early Late Cretaceous deposits exposed at MacFarlane Mine in Cedar Canyon, southwestern Utah, USA. The sediments associated with the new turtle are utilized to infer its stratigraphic provenience and the depositional settings in which it was deposited. The fossil is compared to previously described fossil pleurodires, integrated into a modified phylogenetic analysis of pelomedusoid turtles, and the biogeography of bothremydid turtles is reassessed. In light of the novel phylogenetic hypotheses, six previously established taxon names are converted to phylogenetically defined clade names to aid communication.
The new fossil turtle can be inferred with confidence to have originated from a brackish water facies within the late Cenomanian Culver Coal Zone of the Naturita Formation. The fossil can be distinguished from all other previously described pleurodires and is therefore designated as a new taxon, Paiutemys tibert gen. et. sp. nov. Phylogenetic analysis places the new taxon as sister to the European Polysternon provinciale, Foxemys trabanti and Foxemys mechinorum at the base of Bothremydinae. Biogeographic analysis suggests that bothremydids originated as continental turtles in Gondwana, but that bothremydines adapted to near-shore marine conditions and therefore should be seen as having a circum-Atlantic distribution.
Adán Pérez-García (2016)
A new turtle taxon (Podocnemidoidea, Bothremydidae) reveals the oldest known dispersal event of the crown Pleurodira from Gondwana to Laurasia.
Journal of Systematic Palaeontology (advance online publication)
Pan-Pleurodira is one of the two clades of extant turtles (i.e. Testudines). Its crown group, Pleurodira, has a Gondwanan origin being known from the Barremian. Cretaceous turtle fauna of Gondwana was composed almost exclusively of pleurodires. Extant pleurodires live in relatively warm regions, with a geographical distribution restricted to tropical regions that were part of Gondwana. Although pleurodires were originally freshwater forms, some clades have adapted to a nearshore marine lifestyle, which contributed to their dispersal. However, few lineages of Pleurodira reached Laurasian regions and no representatives have so far been described from the pre-Santonian of Laurasia, where the continental and coastal Cretaceous faunas of turtles consist of clades exclusive to this region. A new turtle, Algorachelus peregrinus gen. et sp. nov., is described here from the southern Laurasian Cenomanian site of Algora in Spain. Numerous remains, including a skull and well-preserved postcranial specimens, are attributed to this species. The abundant shell elements, much more numerous than those known in most members of pleurodiran clade Bothremydidae, allow its variability to be studied. The new taxon represents the oldest evidence of the occurrence of Pleurodira in Laurasia, and is the oldest genus of the abundant and diverse Bothremydodda so far described. Factors such as the relatively high Cenomanian temperatures, the adaptation of this Gondwanan clade to coastal environments, and the geographical proximity between the two landmasses may have contributed to its dispersal. This finding shows that the first dispersals of Pleurodira from Gondwana to Laurasia occurred much earlier than previously thought.