Researchers in Utah have unearthed a monstrous pig-snouted turtle fossil, estimated to be 76 million years old.
Researchers in Utah have uncovered a fossil like nothing they have ever seen. According to a University of Utah press release, scientists are calling it one of the most bizarre turtle species that ever walked the Earth.
The fossil was found in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument by a team of researchers working with the Natural History Museum of Utah. The study’s lead author, Joshua Lively, believes the fossil can help further scientists’ understanding of the long evolutionary history of reptiles.
The turtle species was roughly two feet long, and has been extinct for roughly 76 million years. It lived during the Cretaceous period, when the environment in Utah was wet and marshy.
The Golden’s bacon turtle, Avinachelys golden, lived with tyrannosaurs, ankylosaurs, and large duckbilled dinosaurs like Gryposaurus and Parasaurolophus. The fossil beds where it was discovered are rich with the remains of ancient crocodiles, turtles, lizards, and amphibians.
The turtle is aptly named after the Latin word for bacon, arvina, and the Latin word for tortoise, chelys. Jerry Golden was the person who prepared the fossil for display at the Natural History Museum of Utah.
According to Randall Irmis, a curator of paleontology and a professor at the University of Utah, the fossil fills in a major gap in the evolutionary history of turtles. “With only isolated skulls or shells, we are unable to fully understand how different species of fossil turtles are related, and what roles they played in their ecosystems.”