Turtle shells evolved for burrowing, not protection

How the turtle got its shell is one of the long-standing conundrums of paleontology. Paleontologists know that one of the first steps toward a shell was a broadening of the ribs, which occurred about 50 million years before full shells evolved. But why the broadening, which conferred some disadvantages to movement and breathing, began, has been a mystery. Now, the discovery of a proto-turtle with a partial shell in South Africa is shedding some light on the early stages of shell development.

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Mary Caperton Morton

Mary Caperton Morton

Morton (https://theblondecoyote.com/) is a freelance science and travel writer based in Big Sky, Mont., and an EARTH roving correspondent.  

Friday, November 11, 2016 - 06:00

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