Identification of the African–European Erymnochelys group (Pleurodira, Podocnemididae) in the Belgian fossil record: first finding of Eocenochelus eremberti outside its type locality
Abstract. An almost complete plastron, as well as several peripherals and a costal plate of a turtle from the middle Eocene of Saint-Gilles, is presented here. Although this turtle specimen was donated to the Institut royal des Sciences naturelles de Belgique (Brussels, Belgium) more than a century ago, it remained undescribed. Its study allows us to recognize the second pleurodiran in the Belgian fossil record, where, until now, the Eocene Neochelys was the only one known. The Belgian material of Neochelys is known in lower Eocene (early Ypresian) levels, but the new pleurodiran specimen comes from the middle Eocene (early Lutetian). It is the first partial articulate shell of a pleurodiran turtle recognized in Belgium, and the only member of this clade recognized in this country at specific level. The new specimen is a representative of the so-called Erymnochelys group, this lineage being known in Africa from the Upper Cretaceous to the present but in Europe only during the Eocene. It represents the first specimen of Eocenochelus eremberti identified outside its type locality, the French region of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (Yvelines, Île-de-France), where only one specimen was found. The plastron of the Belgian individual corresponds to the most complete for this species. Its analysis allows us not only to broaden the range of paleobiogeographical distribution of Eocenochelus eremberti but also to improve the knowledge about the anatomy and variability of this taxon.