SCIENCE
11/05/2014 09:37 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Hiker Finds Fossilized Turtle Dating Back 90 Million Years

Jeff Dornbusch knew there was something odd about a pile of gray rocks he spotted more than a decade ago during a hike in the southern New Mexico desert, and a closer look confirms that he was right.

Dornbusch, a museum volunteer in Truth or Consequences, N.M., relocated those rocks in 2012 and notified local scientists, who identified the rocks as fragments of a 90-million-year-old turtle fossil, the Las Cruces Sun-News reported.

Since then, researchers have returned to the site where the rocks were found and excavated the rest of the turtle.

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Workers from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History (from left, Tom Suazo, fossil preparer; Amanda Cantrell, geosciences collections manager; Jake Sayler, volunteer; and Asher Lichtig, student researcher) excavating the 90-million-year-old turtle fossil on Oct. 29, 2014, about six miles east of Turtleback Mountain, a well-known peak near Truth or Consequences.

The prehistoric Adocus turtle's environment 90 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period was much different than the desert landscape where its remains were unearthed.

"Basically, what this is [was] a swampy, near-shore environment," Tom Suazo, fossil preparer for the New Mexico Museum of Natural History, told the Sun-News.

With help from volunteers, researchers dug up loose pieces of fossilized bone and turtle shell, the AP reported.

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A vertebra found Oct. 29, 2014, at the excavation site of a 90-million-year-old turtle near the city of Truth or Consequences, N.M..

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Jeff Dornbusch speaks to James Renn, archaeologist with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, on Oct. 29, 2014, while the fossil was excavated nearby.

The completeness of the fossil won't be known until after the remains are sorted through at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History in Albuquerque, the Sun-News reported.

Plans call for the fossilized turtle to move to the museum, where it will be put on display.

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