Triassic Turtle

Triassic Turtle
Specimen Number: NMMNH P-16697, P-45555
Location: Quay County, New Mexico
Image By: Mary Sundstrom
Date: Spring 2008

Unearthed by NMMNHS field crews from the Upper Triassic badlands near Tucumcari, New Mexico, this newly discovered fossil is North America’s oldest known turtle. The fossil consists of pieces of the upper shell (carapace) and the lower shell (plastron), as well as many pieces of spike-like armor that covered the turtle’s neck and tail. The vertebrae are fused to the carapace, a characteristic of all turtles. 

This Triassic turtle has a very thin shell which may indicate that it was amphibious. Other Triassic turtles, which have thick and heavily-armored shells, were land-living animals.