The origin of turtles and their uniquely shelled body plan is one of the longest standing problems in vertebrate biology. The unfulfilled need for a hypothesis that both explains the derived nature of turtle anatomy and resolves their unclear phylogenetic position among reptiles largely reflects the absence of a transitional fossil record. Recent discoveries have dramatically improved this situation, providing an integrated, time-calibrated model of the morphological, developmental, and ecological transformations responsible for the modern turtle body plan. This evolutionary trajectory was initiated in the Permian (gt260 million years ago) when a turtle ancestor with a diapsid skull evolved a novel mechanism for lung ventilation. This key innovation permitted the torso to become apomorphically stiff, most likely as an adaption for digging and a fossorial ecology. The construction of the modern turtle body plan then proceeded over the next 100 million years following a largely stepwise model of osteological innovation.
|Number of pages
|Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics
|Published - Nov 2 2020
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics