New Turtles from the Paleogene of North America

  • J. Howard HutchisonEmail author
Part of the Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology book series (VERT)


Formal names, diagnoses, and descriptions are supplied for previously identified, but informally named, cryptodiran turtles from the Paleogene of Montana and Wyoming, USA. Two new early Paleocene (Puercan) turtles are described from Montana: a peculiar trionychid, Atoposemys entopteros gen. et. sp. nov., from the Tullock Member of the Fort Union Formation, and a chelydrid, Tullochelys montanus gen. et. sp. nov., from both the Tullock Member of the Fort Union Formation and the Hell Creek Formation. From the Wasatchian (early Eocene) Wasatch and Willwood formations of Wyoming, the following taxa are described: the earliest North American emydid, Psilosemys wyomingensis gen. et. sp. nov.; a platysternid, Cardichelyon rogerwoodi gen. et. sp. nov.; and Planetochelys dithyros sp. nov. A new family, Planetochelyidae, within the Trionychoidae, is erected for Planetochelys.


Emydidae Fort Union Formation  Planetochelyidae Platysternidae  Tullock Member Wasatch Formation  Willwood Formation 



I thank P. Gingerich and W. Bartels (both UMMP), D. Baird (formerly of Princeton University), D. M. Bramble and John Legler (both University of Utah), J. A. Lillegraven (UW), P. Holroyd (UCMP), T. M. Bown and E. L. Lindsay and B. McCord (University of Arizona Paleontology Laboratory, Tucson), T. Rowe (Texas Memorial Museum, Austin) and E. S. Gaffney (AMNH), for access to collections in their care and loan of specimens. Bob O’Donnell (USGS), B. T. Waters (formerly of UCMP), T. Bown, (formerly with the USGS), K. D. Rose (John Hopkins University), S. L. Wing (USNM), P.A. Holroyd (UCMP), K.T. Smith (formerly UCMP), D. E. Savage (UCMP), W. A. Clemens (UCMP), and D. M. Bramble provided field assistance in collecting and geology. I have received financial support from the following sources: NSF Grant GB 40361 to D. E. Savage; National Science Foundation and National Geographic Society grants to W. A. Clemens; a fellowship from the University of Utah Department of Biology; the Annie M. Alexander Endowment to the University of California Museum of Paleontology; and teaching fellowship (1979–1980) from the Department of Biology, University of Utah. The finely detailed stipple drawings were prepared by A. Lucas-Andreae. R. Wood provided photographs and a Princeton University artist provided the shaded drawings of the holotype of Cardichelyon. Other figures are by me. I thank K. Kishi for the expert preparation of many specimens. The BLM provided collecting permits to Federal lands. I thank I. G. Danilov and V. B. Sukhanov for access to unpublished material of Pseudochrysemys, and J. F. Parham for facilitating that access. I thank J. Parham, M. J. Ryan and particularly K. T. Smith for provided useful and helpful criticisms, many of which were followed, and P. A. Holroyd and D. Brinkman for their patience.


  1. Bartels, W. S. (1980). Early Cenozoic reptiles and birds from the Bighorn Basin, Wyoming. University of Michigan Museum of Paleontology Papers on Paleontology, 24, 73–79.Google Scholar
  2. Bartels, W. S. (1983). A transitional Paleocene-Eocene reptile fauna from the Bighorn Basin, Wyoming. Herpetologica, 39, 359–374.Google Scholar
  3. Batsch, A. J. (1788). Versuch einer Anleitung, zur Kenntniss und Geschichte der Thiere und Mineralien (p. 528). Jena: Akademische Buchhandlung.Google Scholar
  4. Bell, T. (1825). A monograph of the tortoises having a moveable sternum with remarks on that arrangement and affinities. Zoological Journal, 2, 299–310.Google Scholar
  5. Berggren, W. A., & Aubry, M. P. (1995). The Paleocene-Eocene Epoch/Series boundary: Chronostratigraphic framework and estimated geochronology. In M.-P. Aubry, S. Lucas & W. A. Berggren (Eds.), Late Paleocene-Early Eocene climate and biotic events in the marine and terrestrial records (pp. 18–36). New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bramble, D. M. (1974). Emydid shell kinesis: Biomechanics and evolution. Copeia, 1974, 707–727.Google Scholar
  7. Bramble, D. M., & Hutchison. J. H. (1981). A reevaluation of plastral kinesis in African turtles of the genus Pelusios. Herpetologica, 37, 205–212.Google Scholar
  8. Bramble, D. M., Hutchison, J. H., & Legler, J. M. (1984). Kinosternid shell kinesis: Structure, function and evolution. Copeia, 1984, 454–473.Google Scholar
  9. Brinkman, D. B., & Peng. J.-H. (1993). New material of Sinemys (Testudines, Sinemydidae) from the Early Cretaceous of China. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 30, 2139–2152.Google Scholar
  10. Chkhikvadze V. M. (1999). The history of the development of the Paleogene herpetofauna of the former Soviet Union territory (in Russian). Problems of Paleobiology, Tbilisi, ‘Metsniereba’ 1, 270–279.Google Scholar
  11. Chkhikvadze, V. M., In: Gaiduchenko, L. L., & Chkhikvadze, V. M. (1985). A new species of cayman turtle from Pavlodar Priirtischia (in Russian). Geologiya i Geofizilca. Novosibirsk, 1, 116–118.Google Scholar
  12. Cope, E. D. (1869/1870). Seventh contribution to the herpetology of tropical America. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 11, 547–553.Google Scholar
  13. Dumeril, A. M. C., & Bibron, G. (1835) Erpétologie Générale ou Histoire Naturelle Complète des Reptiles (Vol. 2). Paris: Librairie Encylopédigue de Roret.Google Scholar
  14. Erickson, B. R. (1973). A new chelydrid turtle Protochelydra zangerli from the late Paleocene of North America. Scientific Publications of the Science Museum of Minnesota, n. s. 2(2), 1–16.Google Scholar
  15. Ernst, C. H., & Barbour, R. W. (1972). Turtles of the United States. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press.Google Scholar
  16. Estes, R. (1975). Lower vertebrates from the Fort Union Formation, Late Paleocene, Big Horn Basin, Wyoming. Herpetologica, 31, 365–385.Google Scholar
  17. Gaffney, E. S., & Meylan. P. A. (1988). A phylogeny of turtles. Systematics Association Special Volume, 35A, 157–519.Google Scholar
  18. Gardner, J. D., & Russell. A. P. (1994). Carapacial variation among soft-shelled turtles (Testudines: Trionychidae), and its relevance to taxonomic and systematic studies of fossil taxa. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontogie, Abhandlungen, 193, 209–244.Google Scholar
  19. Gingerich, P. D. (1989). New earliest Wasatchian mammalian faunas from the Eocene of northwestern Wyoming: Composition and diversity in a rarely sampled high-floodplain assemblage. University of Michigan Papers in Paleontology, 28, 1–97.Google Scholar
  20. Gray, J. E. (1831). Characters of a new genus of freshwater tortoise from China. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 1831, 106–107.Google Scholar
  21. Gray, J. E. (1844). Catalogue of tortoises, crocodilians, and amphisbaenians in the collection of the British Museum. London: British Museum (Natural History), 80 pp.Google Scholar
  22. Gray, J. E. (1855). Catalogue of shield reptiles in the collection of the British Museum. Part I . Testudinata (tortoises). London: Taylor and Francis, 79 pp.Google Scholar
  23. Gray, J. E. (1869). Notes on the families and genera of tortoises (Testudinata), and the characters afforded by the study of their shells. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 1869, 165–225.Google Scholar
  24. Gray, J. E. (1870). Supplement to the catalogue of shield reptiles in the collection of the British Museum. Part I. Testudinata (tortoises). London: Taylor and Francis.Google Scholar
  25. Hay, O. P. (1908). The fossil turtles of North America (Vol. 75). Washington, DC: Carnegie Institution of Washington Publication, 568 pp.Google Scholar
  26. Hirayama, R. (1985). Cladistic analysis of batragurine turtles (Batagurinae: Emydidae: Testudinoidea); a preliminary result. Studia Palaeocheloniologica, 1, 141–157.Google Scholar
  27. Holroyd, P. A., & Hutchison, J. H. (2000). Proximate causes for changes in vertebrate diversity in the early Paleogene: An example from turtles in the Western Interior of North America. GFF, 122, 75–76.Google Scholar
  28. Holroyd, P. A., Hutchison, J. H., & Strait. S. G. (2001). Turtle diversity and abundance through the lower Eocene Willwood Formation of the southern Bighorn Basin. University of Michigan Papers on Paleontology, 33, 97–107.Google Scholar
  29. Holroyd, P. A. & Hutchison, J. H. (2002). Patterns of geographic variation in latest Cretaceous vertebrates: Evidence from the turtle component. Geological Society of America Special Paper, 361, 177–190.Google Scholar
  30. Hutchison, J. H. (1980). Turtle stratigraphy of the Willwood Formation, Wyoming: Preliminary results. University of Michigan Museum Paleontology Papers on Paleontology, 24, 115–118.Google Scholar
  31. Hutchison, J. H. (1983). Two new and unusual genera of Paleocene Emydidae from Wyoming. Society of the Study Amphibians and Reptiles and Herpetologists’ League, Abstracts with Program, 65.Google Scholar
  32. Hutchison, J. H. (1991). Early Kinosterninae (Reptilia: Testudines) and their phylogenetic significance. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 1, 145–167.Google Scholar
  33. Hutchison, J. H. (1992). Western North American reptile and amphibian record across the Eocene/Oligocene boundary and its climatic implications. In D. R. Prothero & W. A. Berggren (Eds.), Eocene-Oligocene climatic and biotic evolution (pp. 451–467), Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Hutchison, J. H. (1998). Turtles across the Paleocene/Eocene Epoch boundary in west-central North America. In M.-P. Aubry, S. Lucas & W. A. Berggren (Eds.), Late Paleocene-Early Eocene climate and biotic events in the marine and terrestrial records (pp. 401–408). New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Hutchison, J. H. (2003). Planetochelys, the oldest perfect box turtle. Symposium on Turtle Origins, Evolution and Systematics, Saint-Petersburg, Russia, Program and Abstracts, p. 23.Google Scholar
  36. Hutchison, J. H. (2008). History of Fossil Chelydridae. In A. C. Steyermark, M. S. Finkler & R. J. Brooks (Eds.), Biology of the snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) (pp. 14–30). Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Hutchison, J. H., & Archibald, J. D. (1986). Diversity of turtles across the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary in northeastern Montana. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 55, 1–22.Google Scholar
  38. Hutchison, J. H., & Bramble, D. M. (1981). Homology of the plastral scales of the Kinosternidae and related turtles. Herpetologica, 37, 73–85.Google Scholar
  39. Hutchison, J. H., & Frye, F. L. (2001). Evidence of pathology in early Cenozoic turtles. PaleoBios, 21, 12–19.Google Scholar
  40. Hutchison, J. H., & Holroyd, P. A. (2003). Late Cretaceous and early Paleocene turtles of the Denver Basin. Rocky Mountain Geology, 38, 1–22.Google Scholar
  41. Hutchison, J. H., & Weems, R. E. (1998). Paleocene turtle remains from South Carolina. American Philosophical Society Transactions, 88, 165–195.Google Scholar
  42. Joyce, W. G., & Bell, C. J. (2004). A review of the comparative morphology of testudinoid turtles (Reptilia: Testudines). Asiatic Herpetological Research, 10, 53–109.Google Scholar
  43. Lydekker, R. (1889). Catalogue of the fossil Reptilia and Amphibia in the British Museum (Natural History), Part III (Containing the order Chelonia). London: Taylor and Francis.Google Scholar
  44. McCord, R. D. (1996). Turtle biostratigraphy of Late Cretaceous and early Tertiary continental deposits San Juan Basin, New Mexico. Fossils of Arizona Proceedings, 4, 135–153.Google Scholar
  45. Merrem, B. (1820). Veruch eines Systems der Amphibien. Tentamen Systematis Amphibiorum. Marburg: Krieger, 199 pp.Google Scholar
  46. Peters, K. F. (1868). Zur Kenntniss der Wirbelthiere aus den Miocänschichten von Eibiswald in Steiermark. I. Die Schldkrötenreste (Auszug). Sitzunsberichte der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien, Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Klasse, 57, 72–74.Google Scholar
  47. Pomel, A. (1847). Note sur des animaux fossils décoverts dans le départment de l’Allier. Bulletin de la Société Géologique de France, Ser. 2, 4, 378–385.Google Scholar
  48. Savage, D. E., Waters, B. T., & Hutchison, J. H. (1972). Northwestern border of the Washakie Basin, Wyoming. In R. M. West (Coordinator), Guidebook of field conference on tertiary biostratigraphy of southern and western Wyoming (pp. 32–39). New York: Adelphi University.Google Scholar
  49. Schweigger, F. (1812). Prodromus monographie cheloniorum. Kongsberg Archive fur Naturwissenschafte und Mathematik, Königsberg, 1, 271–368, 406–462.Google Scholar
  50. von Spix, J. B. (1824). Animalia nova, species novae Testudinum et Ranarum in itinere per Brasiliam annis 1817–1820 collegit et descripsit. München: Hübachmann.Google Scholar
  51. Sukhanov, V. B. (2000). Mesozoic turtles of Middle and Central Asia. In J. M. Benton, M. A. Shishkin, D. M. Unwin & E. N. Kurochkin (Eds.), Age of dinosaurs in Russian and Mongolia (pp. 309–367). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Sukhanov, V. B., & Narmandakh, P. (1976). Paleocene turtles from Mongolia (in Russian). Paleontology and Biostratigraphy of Mongolia, the Joint Soviet-Mongolian Paleontological Expedition, Transactions, 3, 107–133.Google Scholar
  53. Tinkle, D. W. (1962). Variation in shell morphology of North American turtles I. The carapacial seam arrangements. Tulane Studies in Zoology, 9, 331–349.Google Scholar
  54. Wagler, J. G. (1830). Natürliches System der Amphibien, mit vorangehender Classification der Säugethiere und Vögel. Münch, Stuttgart and Tübigen. Cotta.Google Scholar
  55. Weems, R. E. (1988). Paleocene turtles from the Aquia and Brightseat Formations, with a discussion of their bearing on sea turtle evolution and phylogeny. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 10, 109–145.Google Scholar
  56. Williams, E. E. (1950). Variation and selection in the cervical central articulations of living turtles. Bulletin American Museum of Natural History, 94, 505–562.Google Scholar
  57. Woodburne, M. O., & Swisher, C. C. III. (1995). Land mammal high-resolution geochronology, intercontinental overland dispersals, sea level, climate, and vicariance. Society for Sedimentary Geology (SEPM), Special Publication, 54, 335–364.Google Scholar
  58. Yeh, X.-K. (1963). Fossil turtles of China. Palaeontologica Sinica, 150, 1–112.Google Scholar
  59. Zangerl, R. (1969). The turtle shell: In C. Gans, A. Bellairs & T. S. Parsons (Eds.), Biology of the Reptilia. I. (pp. 311–339). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Museum of PaleontologyUniversity of California BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA

Personalised recommendations