New York: The dinosaur-killing asteroid which wiped out much of life on the Earth about 65 million years ago may have spared an ancient sea turtle that swam along the shores of southern Africa, a new study has found.
The newly identified species with a triangular-shaped head lived about 64 million years ago during the Paleocene, the researchers said.
The animal is closely related to earlier sea turtles that lived before the asteroid struck, an event which marks the mass extinction that killed about 75 per cent of all species on Earth, including the nonavian dinosaurs.
“If these sea turtles do, in fact, form a tightly knit group, evolutionarily speaking, then the (African) specimen provides proof that members of that group survived the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous,” said Timothy Myers, a research assistant professor at Southern Methodist University in the US.
The Cabinda turtle was about the size of a small round table, measuring nearly one metre long. Its eyes faced forward and slightly to the side, ‘Live Science’ reported.
An analysis of the skull showed that the early turtle had an expanded palatal surface (roof of the mouth).
The study suggests that an early adaptation allowed the animal to eat hard foods that needed to be crushed prior to ingestion, researchers said.