, Volume 99, Issue 11, pp 925–935

An enormous Jurassic turtle bone bed from the Turpan Basin of Xinjiang, China


    • Museum für Naturkunde Berlin
    • Department of GeosciencesUniversität Tübingen
  • Márton Rabi
    • Department of GeosciencesUniversität Tübingen
    • Department of PaleontologyEötvös Loránd University
    • MTA – ELTE Lendület Dinosaur Research Group
  • Jörg W. Schneider
    • Lehrstuhl Paläontologie, Geologisches InstitutTU Bergakademie Freiberg
  • Leonie Schwermann
    • Steinmann-Institut für Geologie, Mineralogie und PaläontologieUniversität Bonn
  • Ge Sun
    • Jilin University
    • Shenyang Normal University
  • Chang-Fu Zhou
    • Paleontological InstituteShenyang Normal University
  • Walter G. Joyce
    • Department of GeosciencesUniversität Tübingen
    • Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00114-012-0974-5

Cite this article as:
Wings, O., Rabi, M., Schneider, J.W. et al. Naturwissenschaften (2012) 99: 925. doi:10.1007/s00114-012-0974-5


A spectacular new terrestrial Konzentratlagerstätte is introduced from the Turpan Basin of Xinjiang, China that probably belongs to the late Middle Jurassic Qigu Formation. It contains a mass accumulation of “xinjiangchelyid” turtles preliminarily identified as Annemys sp. In the zone with the highest turtle concentration, complete and articulated turtle skeletons are tightly packed at a density of up to 36 turtles per square meter. The fossiliferous layer is thickened here and shows an erosional base. This high concentration zone outcrops approximately 10 m in length and shows no decrease in turtle density after exposing 2 m of the layer into the hillside. Adjacent is a more expansive zone of at least 10 m by 30 m. In this region, the fossiliferous layer is evenly thick, and approximately five, fully disarticulated turtles are present per square meter. A conservatively estimated 1,800 turtles may, therefore, have been deposited at this site. It is likely that these aquatic turtles gathered in a retreating water hole in a riverine environment during a drought, much as some aquatic turtles will do today, but perished when the habitat dried up completely. A following catastrophic rainfall event caused a debris flow, possibly channelized in a dry river bed, which transported complete turtles, disarticulated turtles, and mudstone clasts and deposited them after a short distance. This taphonomic model is consistent with previous environmental reconstructions of the Turpan Basin during the late Middle Jurassic in predicting the episodic breakdown of regional monsoonal circulation resulting in a seasonally dry climate with severe episodic droughts.


Middle JurassicTaphonomyDebris flowKonzentratlagerstätteTestudinesXinjiangchelyidae

Institutional abbreviations


Geological Institute, Mongolian Academy of Sciences, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia


Palaeontological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia


Sino-German Cooperation Project

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012