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Fossilized Egg from Prehistoric Giant Turtle Reveals Baby Inside


China University of Geosciences, Yuzheng Ke

Finding fossilized dinosaur eggs is not unheard of, but finding the fossilized remains of an embryo inside the egg is truly rare.

Fortunately for a pair of paleontologists working in one of the great regions on Earth looking for dinosaur bones, North China, a local farmer had some gems to check and inspect.

In a box of what the farmer believed to be strange and intriguing rocky orbs, scientists Fenglu Han and Haishui Jiang noted one that was different enough to warrant further examination.

The skeletal remains of the treasure contained within the eggshell were the only clues scientists had as to its origin, and as the farmer led them to the site where he found it, he subsequently discovered that the specimens had been poorly maintained throughout the years.

Egg in possession, Jiang and Han sought to examine it using a micro CT scan, which would allow them to look through the outside of the shell. What they found was a jumble of bones that the consultants determined looked strikingly like a turtle embryo.

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Belonging to an extinct genus of giant tortoises called Nanhsiungchelyidae that lived between the Cretaceous period, the call of the geological curtain of the age of the dinosaurs, the find “is one of the largest and thickest shell Mesozoic turtle eggs known,” the authors write in a published study on Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The turtle that laid the egg would have been among the largest turtles that ever lived, and from the tip of the shell to the tail of the shell it would have been as tall as an adult male.

It is difficult to imagine how the turtle could have lived. All scientists know is that it was a herbivore, but the details within the eggshell may indicate what its habitat was like when it lived 144 to 66 million years ago.

“The thick-shelled spherical eggs of nanhsiungchelyids it may have been an adaptation, at least in part, to incubation in arid and harsh environments, ”the authors write in their article.

“Among [living] turtles, a calcified rigid shell limits the movement of water out of the eggshell to prevent excessive loss of water from the egg during incubation. Spherical eggs can also reduce water loss, and the thick eggshell in some reptiles can be an adaptation to an arid climate. “

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As scientists Talking with National Geographic discussed, the baby turtle would have to be a tiny Hercules to come out of such a thick shell.

Weather nanhsiungchelyids went extinct along with non-avian dinosaurs, their aquatic relatives kept sailing, along with other success stories like crocodiles, snakes, and marine life.

Galapagos giant tortoises are slow-moving plant eaters, similar to nanhsiungchelyids. Putting them in the post-asteroid apocalypse that occurred on Earth, when much of the plant life went extinct, would likely see them die like their ancestors.

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