A new species of smooth-shelled turtle has been discovered in Canada’s Grasslands National Park, one of only two Pan-Kinosternidae specimens found in North America. The first, Yelmochelys rosarioae was documented to have existed during the Late Cretaceous. This species, discovered in 2016, and named Leiochelys tokaryki, is a nearly complete skeleton that existed during the Late Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) period. It was found in the Frenchman Formation of Saskatchewan, Canada.
University of Saskatchewan researchers say Leiochelys tokaryki differs from Yelmochelys rosarioae in that it has triangular plastral lobes. It also features a large stapedial canal that the scientists say occurred independenly in the Dermatemydidae and Kinosternidae family of small turtles.
“It’s a new genus and species of smooth-shelled turtle,” the Royal Saskatchewan Museum said on its Facebook page. “The turtle is about 66 million years old and was found near Grasslands National Park in 2016, next to bones of Triceratops. Its shell is about the size of one’s fist, and CT scanning at the Canadian Light Source synchrotron was used by University of Regina Graduate student Caelan Libke to image the delicate specimen. Our Curatorial Assistant Wes Long prepared it and Curator Emeritus Don Brinkman from the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology described it. The species has a special name Leiochelys tokaryki, or “Tokaryk’s smooth turtle” in recognition of long-time RSM palaeontologist Tim Tokaryk’s work in the Cretaceous of Saskatchewan.”