Extinct turtle species found in the Bakony Mountains

MTA-ELTE Momentum Dinosaur Research Group led by Attila Ősi has found a specimen of a previously unknown, extinct turtle species from the late Cretaceous at a lagerstätte site of vertebrates in Iharkút. The ancient reptile was given a special name: Foxemys trabanti. Team members Márton Rabi, GáborBotfalvai  and Haiyan Tong reported about the discovery in Geological Magazine .

A previously unknown turtle species of the Foxemys genus was discovered at the Iharkút excavation site in the Bakony Mountains. From the reconstruction of a great number of skulls, partial shell and skeleton structures collected in recent years the research group led by palaeontologist Attila Ősi has established that the newly discovered species belonged to Bothremydidae , an extinct family of side-neck (Pleurodira) turtles. The ancient animal has been named Foxemys trabanti after the indispensable, sturdy and durable vehicles used by the research group at the Iharkút excavation sites.

Foxemys trabanti és ma élő Podocnemis összehasonlítása
Comparison of Foxemys trabanti
and the extant Podocnemis

Based on the reconstructed fossils of the recently discovered Foxemys trabanti remains, it can be established that similarly to Podocnemis unifilis extant in the Amazon region, these large animals lived in the deeper, faster-flowing river sections. However, the differences in their external features, the wide skull and the occlusal surface of the ancient reptile hint at a special diet presumably consisting of hard-shelled bivalves, gastropods and crustaceans.

Research suggests that in the late Cretaceous some animals from the Bothremydidae family migrated from Africa to Europe, paleogeographically very different at the time since it was made up of an extended system of islands that also included the territory of present day Hungary. “While we are very familiar with Foxemydina records from France and Spain, the Iharkút findings are not only their first registered appearance in Eastern Europe, but they also provide the earliest known occurrence of the group in Europe,” said Gábor Botfalvai.

Ősföldrajzi térkép a Bothremydidae teknős lelőhelyekkel (Iharkút sárgával)
Paleogeopraphical map of lagerstätte sites
of the Bothremydidae turtle
(Iharkút marked with yellow)

These turtles most probably reached Europe by sea in two distinct waves. Even though Foxemys  and similar species primarily lived in freshwater, their immediate African counterparts lived in shallow seawater, therefore the European species were likely to tolerate the saline habitat to a certain degree. “Consequently, they could easily spread throughout the ancient sea’s numerous isles” added Attila Ősi.

“African or South-American (i.e. Gondwana) traces in the late European Cretaceous vertebrates are rare. The most complete findings in Eastern Europe are the Foxemys trabanti remains which prove a north-bound migration from the South” said Márton Rabi .

The research group is supported by the Hungarian Scientific Research Fund (OTKA), Geovolán Kft., Bakony Bauxite Mine Co., the Hungarian Natural History Museum, and the Miksa Hantken Foundation.

mta.hu

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