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General Fossil Information
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Ancient marine turtles bore a strong resemblance to the modern marine turtles swimming in the oceans of today. Their fossils date back to at least the Late Triassic Period and they experienced a rapid radiation on land and in the sea. During the Late Cretaceous Period, some of the marine turtles reached a colossal size. The largest, Archelon, was approximately the size of a small car.
Two main genera of marine turtles have been discovered in the sedimentary rocks of southern Manitoba: Protostega and Toxochelys. Turtles as a group were rare at this northern latitude 80 million years ago. One hypothesis is due to the cooler water temperatures while another hypothesis is due to the gradual decrease (regression) of the Western Interior Seaway. Fossil marine turtles are more abundant in the rocks of Kansas, which would have been deposited farther south in the Western Interior Seaway where water temperatures would have been generally warmer.
Many rumors and legends about giant fossil turtles exist locally, though the CFDC has only a few actual turtle specimens within our collection. Large boulders and/or concretions are sometimes mistaken as large turtle fossils, though these are actually metamorphic rocks that were deposited by retreating glaciers during the last Ice Age.