How The Turtle Got Its Shell

By Meera Dolasia on November 29, 2008

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Paleontologists believe they may have finally solved the mystery of how turtles developed their shells, thanks to a discovery of fossils, dating back 220 million years.

Chun li, a student at the Chinese Academy of Sciences found the three almost perfect, turtle fossils in Southern China's Guizhou province. What was even more exciting however, was the fact that these fossils had features like teeth and an incomplete shell, something that had never been found in turtle fossils before.

Over the years, two theories on how shells were formed have been developed, but until these fossils were found there had been no way to verify which one was accurate.

Some scientists believed that the shell had formed from the backbone and ribs. However, others believed that the shell grew from the skin and then fused with the underlying ribs and backbone.

After studying the latest specimens, scientists have come to the conclusion that first theory is the correct one. They believe that the lower shell formed first and then as the ribs and backbone expanded, they grew and covered it to form the outer hard shell. A similar phenomenon has been observed when the shell forms in a turtle embryo.

Though the fossil, which have been named Odontochelys Semitestacea or half-shelled turtle with teeth, did not have a fully developed top shell, it did have a fully-formed shell on the underside that helped protect its belly. This discovery has led scientists to believe that these creatures were water dwellers and that the underside shell protected them from predators, as they swam in the oceans.

Sources: Dailymail.co.uk, Science Daily

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49 Comments
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  • Foxy the pirateTuesday, February 14, 2017 at 12:49 pm
    WOW!!!!! That's so cool! I can't believe that they found out how turtles got their shells that has been one of my life questions!
    • kittyawsomeTuesday, February 9, 2016 at 7:45 pm
      thats ssssso cool!!!!!!!!! =)
      • WolfMonday, May 18, 2015 at 12:24 pm
        That is really awesome that they found out how turtles got there shells
        • courtney1122334
          courtney1122334Wednesday, February 15, 2017 at 12:45 pm
          yes it is awesome ikr
        • AmbbereTuesday, December 16, 2014 at 9:43 am
          Wow!
          • JahsiahWednesday, March 19, 2014 at 7:47 am
            I like how the pattern of the shell
            • Jahsiah Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 7:43 am
              Cool
              • Jahsiah Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 7:40 am
                Awesome
                • JahsiahWednesday, March 19, 2014 at 7:38 am
                  Awesome
                  • JahneWednesday, March 19, 2014 at 7:29 am
                    Cool
                    • MRS.KNOWITALLThursday, March 13, 2014 at 9:34 am
                      That is interesting

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