Turtle Fossil Proves Shells Were for Digging!
An eight-year-old boy has made an amazing discovery that has rocked the world of science! One day when Kobus Snyman was walking on his father’s farm in South Africa, he found a fossil. The fossil was only 6 inches long, and is the oldest known fossil of a turtle. The fossil includes almost all of the turtle, including its hands and feet.
Kobus Snyman knew he had found something special, and he quickly took the turtle fossil to his local museum. The fossil then made its way to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, where the researchers made an amazing discovery. After studying the shell, they realized that turtles did not develop their hard shells for protection. Instead, these early turtles evolved (changed over time) with shells for digging!
When the scientists studied the fossil, they noticed the wide ribs and stiff torso. The wide ribs helped give the turtle better balance when the turtle was digging. The first turtles (proto-turtles) only had partial shells, but over time, the wide ribs moved into place to form the full shells we know now. This is an exciting discovery, because the turtle’s wide ribs make it hard for it to breathe and move (that is why turtles are so slow).Our lungs are inside our rib cages, and most other animals, including humans, have narrow rib cages and ribs that can bend.
Now, the scientists know that the turtle’s shell evolved for a specific reason. The scientists think the turtles evolved for digging to hide in the dirt and survive the Permian-Triassic extinction that happened more than 252 million years ago. They also think it took about 50 million years for the turtle’s shell to evolve into the full shell that we all know.
The scientists are very grateful to Kobus for turning the fossil over to the museum. Professor Bruce Rubidge said,”I want to thank Kobus Snyman and shake his hand because, without Kobus, both finding the specimen and taking it to his local museum, the Fransie Pienaar Museum in Prince Albert, this study would not have been possible.”
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