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Broad-ribbed bony structures likely evolved to provide early turtles with more stability and leverage for fossorial locomotion (burrowing).
The technique provides more accurate estimates than other methods scientists currently use and may help shed new light on factors influencing the decline and lack of recovery of some endangered sea turtles populations."The most basic questions of sea turtle life history are also the most elusive," said Kyle Van Houtan, fisheries research ecologist at NOAA's Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center and adjunct associate professor at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.Van Houtan and his colleagues analyzed hard tissue from the shells of 36 deceased hawksbill sea turtles collected since the 1950s.The largest known turtle, , a genus of sea turtles that lived during the Late Cretaceous, reached a length of about 3.5 metres (12 feet).Softshell turtles (family Trionychidae) are the first modern turtles found in the fossil record, appearing in the Cretaceous Period.
Many of the oldest and most primitive forms not only lacked a shell but also lacked a plastron and a carapace.