STL Science Center

STL Science Center

13 February 2013

Interesting Archelon Facts

The Western Interior Seaway of North America was rife with life, this is a known fact from the wealth of fossil evidence that was collected between the 1860's and the present day. Archelon, as we know, is one of those lifeforms that has been shown to have existed in some abundance (in terms of a rather large turtle at least). A lot of the Archelon specimen material that has been collected within the confines of what was once the ocean resides in what is now South Dakota. A number of other turtle species have been discovered within the extent of the now extinct ocean. Kansas turtles have also been collected- Kansas was a plesiosaur and mosasaur hunting ground but turtles and fish are found in good abundance here as well- but where and when they were collected are not well documented, sadly. Archelon was not a high population, in terms of specimen material, animal in the area that is now Kansas, but it is thought to have lived throughout the seaway; missing evidence of its living in any given area is subject to pretty much every type of fossil record bias one can think of.

Wieland, the author of the initial description of Archelon, thought, based on the raptorial curve of the turtle's beak, that Archelon was an entirely carnivorous animal and that it could catch slow moving prey. This narrows down diet to jellyfish, as in some extant sea turtles, and slow moving fishes and, perhaps, sedentary mollusks. The raptorial nature of the beak, rather than the tough crushing beak of, say, a seed crunching bird, was not necessarily built for crunching down on clams and other inoceramids. That raptorial beak would be a good defensive tool as well.

Tylosaurus, a big mean mosasaur, would have loved to have made a snack of smaller Archelon, typically juveniles, but that beak could have been used, in addition to the protective shell, to survive attacks from giant mosasaurs such as Tylosaurus. Use your imagination in finishing out the drama of this image sold by Great American Media Services and through a few museums as an info card or poster:
Artist unknown (so far)

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