Detailed Messel Eocene Fossil Turtle

Name: Allaeochelys crassesculptata

Age: Eocene

Size: mm (25.4mm=1 inch): 300 mm long by 166 mm tall at the jaw hinge

Location: Messel Pit, Darmstadt, Germany

Messel Eocene Fossil TurtleDescription: This is a fine example of a swift-swimming turtle from the oil shale Messel Pit deposits of Darmstadt, Germany, known as Allaeochelys crassesculptata. These ~50 million year old deposits are famous for their exceptionally well-preserved organisms, some of which have the remains of their last meal preserved within. Soft tissue preservation is a common event in material from the pit. This genus was distributed throughout the Tertiary of North America, Asia, and Europe, and has the soft-shelled turtles of Papua, New Guinea as their most recent relatives. Indeed, this taxon is thought to represent the transition from true turtles to the soft shells. This specimen is shown from the ventral side, displaying the diagnostic cruciform plastron which allowed freedom of movement of the paddle-like feet. Many of the limb bones are in evidence. I have been told that the skull is present within the shell, but have not been able to verify that fact by virtue of lack of access to an X-ray. Due to this fragility of the oil shale, this specimen, like all from the locality, has been embedded in resin to allow preparation. The fossil is then flipped over and the matrix removed on the opposite side. A final coating of resin serves to preserve the specimen as seen here.

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