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Ancient Turtle Found in a Church Pillar and a Small Mammal That Lived With the Dinosaurs

The remains of a turtle that lived sometime between 35 and 25 million years ago were discovered inside of a church pillar in Christchurch, New Zealand. A sculptor named Paul Deans found the fossilized remains when he was analyzing the limestone core of a pillar from the Oxford Terrace Baptist Church that was built between the years 1881 and 1882.

The pillars were hollowed out because they were going be reinforced and put up in the new building after the church was destroyed during the Canterbury earthquakes in 2011. Mr. Deans received numerous pieces of the pillars’ cores for his work and that’s when he discovered the fossil of the turtle that included parts of the bottom half of its shell as well as other bones. (A picture can be seen here.)

He brought the fossil to the Canterbury Museum where Dr. Paul Scofield examined it and confirmed that it was an unnamed species of an ancient turtle. Interestingly, the fossil looked similar to another that is at the museum and was discovered back in the year 1880. Amazingly, that fossil was also found in Oamaru limestone that was quarried for the construction of a building.

An image of the Oxford Terrace Baptist Church back in 1885.

Dr. Scofield analyzed the fossils and stated that both specimens probably came from the same quarry. He even went a step further and said that both fossils may have belonged to the same turtle, although further studies need to be conducted in order to know for sure.

In other ancient creature news, the remains of new mammal species that lived with the dinosaurs sometime between 100.5 million and 66 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous Period in Patagonia has been unearthed. Named Orretherium tzen, it’s been classified as a meridiolestidan mammal and part of the Mesungulatidae family.

A team of South American paleontologists discovered the fossil in rocks at Chile’s Dorotea Formation. The remains were found after numerous surveys took place in the Magallanes Region’s Rio de las Chinas Valley. The remains included a 1.2-inch long piece of a lower jaw bone with five teeth as well as one upper premolar. (A picture of what the Orretherium tzen would have looked like can be seen here.)

Orretherium tzen lived during the time of the dinosaurs.

Alexander Vargas, who coordinated the project with Sergio Soto-Acuña in support of Universidad de Chile, stated, “The new Chilean species Orretherium tzen is of special importance in discussing the evolutionary origin of an important family of mammals.” Agustin G. Martinelli, who is a member of the National Scientific and Technical Research Council of Argentina (Conicet)-Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences, reiterated this by saying, “The fossils found in Chile are extremely important to understand the puzzle of the evolutionary history of mammals during the age of the dinosaurs.”

The study was published in Scientific Reports where it can be read in full.

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Jocelyne LeBlanc works full time as a writer and is also an author with two books currently published. She has written articles for several online websites, and had an article published in a Canadian magazine on the most haunted locations in Atlantic Canada. She has a fascination with the paranormal and ghost stories, especially those that included haunted houses. In her spare time, she loves reading, watching movies, making crafts, and watching hockey.