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First record of a leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelyidae) from the Mio-Pliocene Purisima Formation of northern California, USA


The leatherback sea turtle family Dermochelyidae has an extensive evolutionary history, though it is represented by only one living species today, Dermochelys coriacea. Dermochelyid fossils occur worldwide from upper Cretaceous to Pliocene marine strata. Herein described is the first occurrence of a sea turtle from the lowermost Pliocene Purisima Formation of northern California, a single carapacial non-ridge ossicle. The ossicle exhibits external morphological and internal structural characteristics (ossicle thickness, internal layering, serrate margins) that are comparable to both the extinct genus Psephophorus and to the extant genus Dermochelys. Identification of the ossicle as cf. Psephophorus is based on examination of its thickness, internal structure, surface textures and geochronological age. This paper reports the third occurrence of leatherback sea turtle fossils from the western coast of the United States.

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