CERDA Ignacio Alejandro
Appearances can be deceptive: bizarre shell microanatomy and histology in a new Triassic turtle (Testudinata) from Argentina at the dawn of turtles
STERLI, JULIANA; MARTÍNEZ, RICARDO N.; CERDA, IGNACIO A.; APALDETTI, CECILIA
Papers in Palaeontology
The origin and homology of the turtle shell is one of the most captivating topics in amniote evolution. In this contribution, we present a new species of turtle from the Late Triassic of Argentina whose peripheral plates raise questions about the homology of these bones in turtles. The externalmorphology of the peripheral plates of Waluchelys cavitesta gen. et sp. nov. (Testudinata, Australochelyidae) is as in any other turtle, however, appearances can be deceptive. Internally,these plates have an unexpected internal cavity. The absence of structural similarities and of ontogenetic or phylogenetic transitional forms between the peripheral plates of W. cavitesta and other testudinatans might suggest that the periphery of turtles represents a case of deep homology. Furthermore, the present and recent findings suggest that the structure and ossification patterns of the periphery of the turtle shell were more plastic and subject to variation than other elements of the shell, at least in the earliest stages of turtle evolution. These findings also suggest that the typical mesochelydian turtle shell could have been acquired in a two-stage process.