In Canada, a 66-million-year-old smooth-shelled turtle fossil was discovered

Leiochelys tokaryki

A virtually complete skeleton of the Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) animal Leiochelys tokaryki has been discovered and the name bears the name of the person who discovered it. Tim Tokaryk, a former curator of paleontology at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, is honored with the new turtle species’ name.

One of only two Pan-Kinosternidae specimens identified in North America, a new species of smooth-shelled turtle has been found in Canada’s Grasslands National Park. Yelmochelys rosarioae, the first, was known to have lived in the Late Cretaceous. Leiochelys tokaryki, a species that was identified in 2016, is a virtually complete skeleton from the Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) era. It was discovered in Saskatchewan, Canada’s Frenchman Formation.

Differences in Leiochelys tokaryki

Leiochelys tokaryki differs from Yelmochelys rosarioae, according to researchers from the University of Saskatchewan, in that it possesses triangular plastral lobes. Additionally, it has a large stapedial canal, which the authors claim developed independently in the tiny turtle families Dermatemydidae and Kinosternidae.

The Royal Saskatchewan Museum said on its Facebook page, “It’s a new genus and species of smooth-shelled turtle.” The turtle, which is roughly 66 million years old, was discovered in 2016 close to Triceratops bones in Grasslands National Park. Caelan Libke, a graduate student at the University of Regina, utilized CT scanning at the Canadian Light Source synchrotron to image the fragile creature, whose shell is roughly the size of a human fist. It was made by Wes Long, curatorial assistant, and described by Curator Emeritus Don Brinkman of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology. In honor of longtime RSM palaeontologist Tim Tokaryk’s work in the Cretaceous of Saskatchewan, the species is known as Leiochelys tokaryki, or “Tokaryk’s smooth turtle.”

Tim Tokaryk, former curator of paleontology at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, inspired the new turtle species’ name. Tokaryk spent decades examining Cretaceous fossils in Saskatchewan, Canada.