STL Science Center

STL Science Center

03 September 2015

King Turtle

Aside from Archelon, Protostega is probably the most well known fossil turtle in existence. The fact that it has been known since the late 19th Century partially is responsible for the wide circulation of knowledge connected to its existence, but it is also a byproduct of the wholeness of many of the specimens that have been collected. This is thanks in part to the marine environment in which the turtles lived, but many of these remains also probably represent turtles that, unfortunately for the living organism, were killed and buried quickly if not simultaneously. Marine animals tend to bloat with gases and float near the surface, allowing scavengers to pick apart the carcasses before they settle back to the ocean floor. While this certainly happened to some of the giant sea turtles it may not be the case for all of the extremely well preserved fossils. The fame of the turtle in our culture is partly owing to the museum displays that have been erected to show the fossils as well as quality sculpted versions of the turtle, but the other major factor in the popularity of this turtle is most definitely the fact that it is an enormous sea turtle. Sea turtles have always been much beloved by many people, and fossil turtles are no exception. Whenever we see a sea turtle swimming in a local aquarium or the ocean we can imagine a larger version of it swimming about, which is basically what Protostega was.

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