Thursday, August 28, 2008

Fossilized Pregnant Turtle Found 75 Million Years After Death

A turtle that toddled alongside the dinosaurs died just days before laying a clutch of eggs. Now, about 75 million years later, paleontologists are announcing their find of the fossilized mother-to-be and the eggs tucked inside her body.

Scientists from the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology in Canada discovered the turtle in 1999 in a mud-filled channel in the badlands of southeastern Alberta. Then, in 2005, University of Calgary scientists found a nest of 26 eggs laid by another female of the same species in the same region.

Both specimens, described this week in the journal Biology Letters, belong to an extinct turtle in the Adocus genus, a large river turtle that resembles today's slider and cooter turtles.

The pregnant turtle represents the first fossil turtle to be unearthed with eggs still inside the body cavity, the scientists say.

"Although it is relatively rare to find the eggs and babies of extinct animals, it is even rarer to find them inside the body of the mother," said researcher Darla Zelenitsky, a geoscientist at the University of Calgary in Alberta, who was also involved in the first discovery of a dinosaur with eggs inside its body.

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