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Article: The origin of the turtle body plan: evidence from fossils and embryos

Palaeontology - Vol. 63 Part 3 - Cover Image
Publication: Palaeontology
Volume: 63
Part: 3
Publication Date: May 2020
Page(s): 375 393
Author(s): Rainer R. Schoch, and Hans‐Dieter Sues
Addition Information

How to Cite

SCHOCH, R.R., SUES, H. 2020. . Palaeontology, 63, 3, 375-393. DOI: /doi/10.1111/pala.12460

Author Information

  • Rainer R. Schoch - Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Rosenstein 1 D‐70191 Stuttgart Germany
  • Hans‐Dieter Sues - Department of Paleobiology National Museum of Natural History Smithsonian Institution Washington DC 20560 USA

Publication History

  • Issue published online: 29 April 2020
  • Manuscript Accepted: 23 September 2019
  • Manuscript Received: 04 June 2019

Online Version Hosted By

Wiley Online Library (Open Access)
Get Article: Wiley Online Library [Open Access]


The origin of the unique body plan of turtles has long been one of the most intriguing mysteries in evolutionary morphology. Discoveries of several new stem‐turtles, together with insights from recent studies on the development of the shell in extant turtles, have provided crucial new information concerning this subject. It is now possible to develop a comprehensive scenario for the sequence of evolutionary changes leading to the formation of the turtle body plan within a phylogenetic framework and evaluate it in light of the ontogenetic development of the shell in extant turtles. The fossil record demonstrates that the evolution of the turtle shell took place over millions of years and involved a number of steps.


We gratefully acknowledge Isabell Rosin, Norbert Adorf and Marit Kamenz for their assistance during fieldwork and for their meticulous preparation of the specimens of Pappochelys. We also thank Jacques Gauthier, Randall Irmis, Walter Joyce, Nicole Klein, Tyler Lyson, Erin Maxwell, Olivier Rieppel, Torsten Scheyer, Erich Weber and Ingmar Werneburg for helpful discussions, and Roger Benson for his editorial suggestions.

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