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Advisory Committee Chair

Scott Brande

Advisory Committee Members

Ken Marion

James Parham

Stephen Watts

Thane Wibbels

Document Type

Dissertation

Date of Award

2020

Degree Name by School

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

The non-protostegid marine turtle fossils recovered from the Late Cretaceous of Alabama may represent some of the most recent common ancestors of modern marine turtles. Despite their evolutionary significance, almost no formal studies have been conducted on these animals for more than 60 years. Many of these species are known from incomplete holotypes which has led to decades of systematic ambiguity and made specific referrals of recently collected fossil material exceedingly challenging. The aim of this study is to review and describe the specimens of Cretaceous marine turtles collected from Alabama to determine if this material can be used to shed light on the anatomy, biology, and phylogeny of these animals. These efforts resulted in the redescription of Prionochelys matutina based on newly described fossil material, the discovery of the first known occurrence of Toxochelys latiremis, Prionochelys nauta, and Peritresius ornatus in the state of Alabama, as well as the discovery of a new species (Peritresius martini) and a new genus (Asmodochelys) of Late Cretaceous marine turtle. The former members of the subfamily Lophochelyinae have been assigned to the newly created Ctenochelyidae. Bayesian and parsimony phylogenetic analyses recover all ctenochelyids as pan-chelonioids and ancestral range reconstructions based on a well-resolved phylogeny of Pan-Chelonioidea indicate a high probability that the most recent common ancestor of all modern marine turtles was either a North American or European taxon.

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