Abstract

Peligrochelys walshae is a meiolaniform turtle originally described based on four specimens represented by cranial remains found in the classic locality of Punta Peligro (Chubut, Argentina) in outcrops of the Salamanca Formation (Danian). Recent field work in the vicinity of Punta Peligro resulted in the discovery of almost 30 new specimens, represented by cranial and postcranial remains that can be assigned to P. walshae. In this contribution, we provide a detailed anatomical description of the new specimens, provide an emended diagnosis for the species, and explore its phylogenetic relationships based on all anatomical data available for the species. The new specimens bring valuable information about the anatomy of the skull and postcranium of P. walshae as well as for meiolaniforms in general. The 3D preservation of the skull bones allows us to provide a 3D reconstruction using novel techniques. The updated phylogenetic analysis confirms that P. walshae is part of the clade Meiolaniformes, which spans from the Early Cretaceous until the Holocene and contains the giant, horned turtles (Meiolaniidae). This phylogenetic analysis reinforces the previous hypothesis that the clade Meiolaniformes is dominated by Gondwanan taxa, but also includes some Laurasian representatives. Alternate phylogenetic positions of taxa included in Meiolaniformes in this analysis were tested using the Templeton test. The lineage leading to Peligrochelys walshae is the only meiolaniform non-meiolaniid lineage to have survived the K-Pg mass extinction; its study provides valuable information to evaluate the effects of the K-Pg extinction in turtles.

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