The Pirate Turtle - Fossil Tortoise (Stylemys) Skull & Bones

Every once in a while we come across a piece that has so much character that it deserves a nickname. Well this is "The Pirate Turtle". Arrrrggggg.

It is an Oligocene aged tortoise (Stylemys nebrascensis) from South Dakota, whose shell was totally eroded away. This left all the pieces tucked inside remaining including the skull centered between its limbs (a skull and cross bones).

The entire piece measures 12 x 9 x 4.8" with the skull being 2.3" long. Despite the prevalence of fossil tortoise shells in the White River Formation you don't run into skulls very often. The skull has about 25% restoration in total, while there is no restoration on the limb bones.

Stylemys ("pillar turtle") is the first fossil genus of dry land tortoise discovered in the United States. The genus lived in temperate to subtropical areas of North America, Europe, and Asia
These extinct tortoises had primitive jaw muscles, unlike today's tortoises, which also display the os transiliens bone, and would have been herbivorous. While Stylemys species did exhibit the same neck structure as modern tortoises, the forelimbs weren't ideal for burrowing.
Stylemys nebrascensis
Pennington County, South Dakota
White River Formation
Entire piece 12 x 9 x 4.8"
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