Carolinochelys wilsoni

Object of the Month: 07/2003

What is it?:

Fossil sea turtle Carolinochelys wilsoni

Age: 28 million years, Chandler Bridge Formation, Late Oligocene
Where was it collected:

South Carolina


68cm W x 80cm L (shell only)

Accession #: P:99.9.1c

Fossil sea turtle

The fossil sea turtle Carolinochelys is a possible ancestor of the living loggerhead turtle Caretta caretta which inhabits the waters off the southeast coast of North America.

Paleontology Lab volunteer R. Wolszon working on the Carolinochelys mount The newly mounted (2003) skeleton of Carolinochelys at the Science Museum of Minnesota (which can be seen hanging in the museum's Collections Gallery) represents the first articulated specimen of its kind exhibited anywhere. It is a composite cast produced at SMM from a number of incomplete specimens housed mostly in the Charleston Museum, with other elements from the collections of the Science Museum of Minnesota as well as specimens in private collections.

View of the plastron (lower shell) and underside of Carolinochelys This mount attempts to show swimming behavior with the front flippers extended and acting as "diving planes" as it descends through the water. The pose further provides a clear view of the segmented lower shell (plastron) and most of the internal skeleton as seen from below. The skeleton is about one meter long.

Carolinochelys belongs to a late Oligocene (28 million years old) coastal vertebrate fauna collected from the Chandler Bridge Formation of South Carolina that includes whales; a dugong Crenatosiren; sea birds; the crocodile Gavialosuchus; other turtles; and many fishes. Several of these groups are the subjects of current research by the Science Museum of MInnesota and the Charleston Museum, South Carolina.