Researchers have unearthed a massive Jurassic turtle graveyard in China’s northwest province of Xinjiang.
According to Live Science, the Jurassic turtle graveyard consists of about 1,800 ancient turtle skeletons.
Walter Joyce, a fossil turtle specialist at the University of Tübingen in Germany, said:
“This site has probably more than doubled the known number of individual turtles from the Jurassic.”
Researchers believe that the turtles probably died of dehydration while waiting for rain at a watering hole about 160 million years ago. When the rain finally came, after most of the turtles had died, a river of mud rushed into the watering hole and created a massive turtle graveyard.
Joyce said that the Jurassic Turtle Graveyard will help researchers classify ancient turtles that lived in Jurassic Asia.
‘We know from living organisms that individuals of some species look very similar, whereas individuals of other species show a lot of variation. As a paleontologist, it is therefore always difficult to assess if your fossil looks different from others because it is a new species, or because it is part of an already known, but variable species. With data from the new site we will finally be able to more rigorously assess patterns of diversity of turtles in the Jurassic of Asia.”
Live Science reports that the turtle shells at the Jurassic graveyard are about 8 inches long. Researchers say that there are so many turtles that they are finding about 36 fossils for every square meter.