Faculté des sciences et de médecine

A new testudinoid turtle from the middle to late Eocene of Vietnam

Garbin, Rafaella C. ; Böhme, Madelaine ; Joyce, Walter G.

In: PeerJ, 2019, vol. 7, p. e6280

Testudinoidea is a major clade of turtles that has colonized different ecological environments across the globe throughout the Tertiary. Aquatic testudinoids have a particularly rich fossil record in the Tertiary of the northern hemisphere, but little is known about the evolutionary history of the group, as the phylogenetic relationships of most fossils have not been established with... More

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    Summary
    Testudinoidea is a major clade of turtles that has colonized different ecological environments across the globe throughout the Tertiary. Aquatic testudinoids have a particularly rich fossil record in the Tertiary of the northern hemisphere, but little is known about the evolutionary history of the group, as the phylogenetic relationships of most fossils have not been established with confidence, in part due to high levels of homoplasy and polymorphism.Methods: We here focus on describing a sample of 30 testudinoid shells, belonging to a single population that was collected from lake sediments from the middle to late Eocene (35–39 Ma) Na Duong Formation in Vietnam. The phylogenetic placement of this new material is investigated by integrating it and 11 other species of putative geoemydids from the Eocene and Oligocene to a recently published matrix of geoemydid turtles, that embraces the use of polymorphic characters, and then running a total-evidence analysis.Results: The new material is highly polymorphic, but can be inferred with confidence to be a new taxon, Banhxeochelys trani gen. et sp. nov. It shares morphological similarities with other southeastern Asian testudinoids, Isometremys lacuna and Guangdongemys pingi, but is placed phylogenetically at the base of Pan-Testuguria when fossils are included in the analysis, or as a stem geoemydid when other fossils are deactivated from the matrix. The vast majority of other putative fossil geoemydids are placed at the base of Pan-Testuguria as well.Discussion: The phylogenetic placement of fossil testudinoids used in the analysis is discussed individually and each species compared to Banhxeochelys trani gen. et sp. nov. The high levels of polymorphism observed in the new taxon is discussed in terms of ontogenetic and random variability. This is the first time that a large sample of fossil testudinoids has its morphological variation described in detail.