Turtles Escaped Global Warming Via a Freshwater Highway in the Ocean

By Eliza Strickland | February 2, 2009 2:39 pm

turtle fossilThe surprising find of a freshwater, tropical turtle fossil in Arctic Canada suggests that the first turtles to migrate from Asia to North America may have taken the most direct route, swimming and island hopping straight through the Arctic Ocean. This was possible, researchers say, because the Arctic was warmer and ice-free 90 million years ago, when carbon dioxide levels were extraordinarily high. “The fossil record is giving us more and more information about how ancient animals responded to a warming world,” [says] geophysicist John Tarduno. “They moved toward the poles” [Wired News].

The freshwater turtle was able to survive in the ocean, Tarduno says, because of a floating freshwater highway that led from Russia to Canada. Numerous rivers from the adjacent continents would have poured fresh water into the ancient Arctic sea…. Fresh water, which is lighter than marine water, may have rested on top of the salty ocean water allowing animals such as the turtle to migrate with relative ease [Telegraph].

The fossil was found on an island within the Arctic Circle called Axel Heiberg, which is covered with lava flows. Says Tarduno: “We found this turtle right on top of the last flood basalts – a large stretch of lava from a series of giant volcanic eruptions. That leads us to believe that the warming may have been caused by volcanoes pumping tremendous amounts of carbon dioxide into the Earth’s atmosphere. There is evidence that this volcanic activity happened all around the planet – not just the Arctic” [Telegraph].

Today, those volcanoes form the peaks of the Alpha Ridge, an underwater Arctic mountain chain connecting the northern coasts of Russia, the United States in Alaska and Canada [National Post]. But researchers believe that the tops of many volcanoes poked above the ocean’s surface 90 million years ago, allowing the turtles to island-hop from one peak to the next.

The fossil found on Axel Heiberg turned out to be a new species that researchers named Aurorachelys, which will be described in the February issue of Geology; it belongs to a family of extinct Asian turtles with very round shells.

Related Content:
80beats: A Clue to the Evolutionary Riddle of How the Turtle Got Its Shell
80beats: Fossils of Shrimp-Like Creatures Point to a Warmer Antarctica in the Distant Past

Image: University of Rochester/John Tarduno

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Living World
  • George

    I.Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision – Planet X – Volcanoes activation, Poles reversal 3600 years ago:”The Japanese cosmogony says that the source of the light disappeared…Mayas documents are describing a cosmic cataclysm during which the ocean hit the continent…Volcanic explosions…The causes of the ulterior appearance and disappearence of the glacier layer…this ice layer dislodged from its place…Two celestial bodies have been attracted one to each other. The inner masses of the Earth were pushed to the periphery. The Earth with its rotation movement disturbed, started to
    warm…The Earth exploded and the lava started to spread around…the magnetic poles have been several times reversed, the last time during the Jews’ Exodus…The Talmud and other ancient rabbinical sources tell of great disturbances in the solar movement at the time of the Exodus and the Passage of the Red Sea…The Papyrus Ipuwer… says that the Earth turned over like a potter’s wheel…the South becomes North…The Greeks, like other peoples spoke of the reversal of the quarters of the earth…In Greenland also the Eskimos fear that the earth will turn over”:
    a) http://cristiannegureanu.blogspot.com/2009/01/earths-magnetic-field-impacts-climate.html
    b) http://cristiannegureanu.blogspot.com/2009/01/astronomers-discover-earth-like-planet.html

  • Bruce Voigt

    I have trudged through the barren lands of Canada’s Arctic and have seen evidence that this land in times past was subject to salt water ocean, evidence of prehistoric inhabitants that would indicate a tropical environment.

    You have a choice here, You can either believe that the Arctic was once hot (that damn global warming thing again) and believe the garbage of plate tectonics. Or you can consider my science in that the Earth moves around on its North South magnetic Axis changing its exposure to both Sun and Moon.

    Bruce Voigt

  • I love Turtles

    Note to self: stop reading comments.

  • Geack


    If the Earth flipped upside down like you suggest, wouldn’t we all fall off?

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