Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Data from: Shell geometry and habitat determination in extinct and extant turtles (Reptilia: Testudinata)


Benson, Roger B. J.; Domokos, Gábor; Várkonyi, Peter L.; Reisz, Robert R. (2011), Data from: Shell geometry and habitat determination in extinct and extant turtles (Reptilia: Testudinata), Dryad, Dataset,


A number of means, including forelimb proportions and shell bone histology have been used to infer the paleoecology of extinct turtles. However, the height to width ratio of the shell (as a one-parameter shell model) has been dismissed because of its unreliability, and more complex aspects of shell geometry have generally been overlooked. Here we employ a more reliable, three-parameter geometric model of the shell outline in anterior view as a means to assess turtle paleoecology. The accuracy of predictions of extant turtle ecology based on our three-parameter shell model is comparable to that derived from forelimb proportions when distinguishing between three ecological classes (terrestrial, semi-aquatic and aquatic). Higher accuracy is obtained when distinguishing between two classes (terrestrial and non-terrestrial) since the contours of aquatic and semi-aquatic turtles are often very similar. Our model classifies Proterochersis robusta, a stem turtle from the Late Triassic of Germany, as non-terrestrial, and likely semi-aquatic. Our method, combined with inferences based on limb proportions, indicates a diverse range of ecotypes represented by Late Triassic stem turtles. This implies that the ecological diversification of stem-group turtles may have been rapid, or a substantial period of currently cryptic diversification preceded the first fossil appearance of the turtle stem lineage during the Late Triassic.

Usage Notes