What Rudyard Kipling couldn't tell us: how the turtle got its shell

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Fossilised remains of the most ancient turtle yet discovered are helping scientists to unravel the Kiplingesque puzzle of how the animal grew its shell.

Only the underside of the turtle is covered by a fully formed protective shell, giving researchers an invaluable glimpse into how it evolved.

The discovery of Odontochelys semi-testacea – “half-shelled turtle with teeth” – is being hailed as the long-sought missing link between turtles that have full shells and their shell-less ancestors. Three fossilised specimens dug up near Guanling in the southern Chinese province of Guizhou have been dated at 220 million years old and the species has been identified as the ancestor of all other known turtles.

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