Fossil sea turtles (Chelonii, Dermochelyidae and Cheloniidae) from the Miocene of Pietra Leccese (late Burdigalian-early Messinian), Southern Italy

Francesco CHESI, Massimo DELFINO, Angelo VAROLA & Lorenzo ROOK

en Geodiversitas 29 (2) - Pages 321-333

Published on 29 June 2007

The presence of chelonian remains in the Miocene Pietra Leccese sediments (Lecce, Italy) is known since the 19th century. Two chelonian species have been recognized: Testudo varicosa Costa, 1851, and Euclastes melii Misuri, 1910. New fossil findings confirm the presence of cheloniid sea turtles and testify for the existence of leatherback sea turtles. The dermochelyid remains are referred to the species Psephophorus polygonus Meyer, 1846. The specimen MAUL 990/1a‑l represents the largest carapace portion of this species so far reported in the literature. The combination of a sculptured carapace with the scute sulci pattern allows attributing three new cheloniid specimens and the type material of Testudo varicosa to the species Trachyaspis lardyi Meyer, 1843, a cosmopolitan Miocene species. Many unsculptured cheloniid fragments are present, but due to their bad preservation and their small sizes, it is not possible to attribute them to the already known cheloniid species, “Euclastesmelii. The repository of the fossil material firstly attributed to the species Euclastes melii, and then to Procolpochelys melii, is not known, therefore no direct morphological comparison is possible. The chelonioid assemblage represents a typical Miocene sea turtle fauna, composed of leatherback (Psephophorus polygonus), sculptured (Trachyaspis lardyi) turtles and smooth cheloniids (a form firstly referred to Euclastes melii, and indeterminate members of the family Cheloniidae). This fauna is comparable to the similar and contemporary turtle fauna from the Calvert Formation, where leatherback, smooth and sculptured turtles are present.


Reptilia, Chelonii, Dermochelyidae, Cheloniidae, Miocene, late Burdigalian, early Messinian, Euclastes melii, Psephophorus polygonus, Testudo varicosa, Trachyaspis lardyi, Dermochelys coriacea sister taxon, Southern Italy.

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