, Volume 99, Issue 11, pp 925-935
Date: 21 Oct 2012

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

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Abstract

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.

Communicated by: Sven Thatje