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Meiolaniidae is an extinct family of large, possibly herbivorous turtles with heavily armored heads and tails known from South America and most of Oceania. They are best known from the last surviving genus, Meiolania, which lived in the rain forests of Australia from the Miocene until the Pleistocene, and relict populations that lived on Lord Howe Island and New Caledonia until 2000 years ago. A similar form is also known from the Miocene Saint Bathans Fauna of New Zealand.[2]

Temporal range: Middle Eocene to Holocene 48–recent Ma
Meiolania platyceps e.jpg
Ninjemys oweni and Meiolania platyceps
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Clade: Meiolaniformes
Family: Meiolaniidae
Lydekker, 1887

The family was once thought to have originated in Australia sometime in the Miocene, when the earliest Meiolania first appeared. However, due to the discovery of South American meiolaniids, including Niolamia in Eocene Argentina, it is now believed that the meiolaniids appeared sometime prior to the breakup of Gondwana during the Cretaceous. Though once believed to be cryptodires, meiolaniids are outside the Testudines crown-group, potentially indicating that their origin is even further back.[3][4][5] Several basal non-testudine turtles possibly related to meiolaniids are known in both Laurasian and Gondwanan landmasses in the Cretaceous, such as the Asian Mongolochelys.[5]

More recently, Eocene Australian species have also been uncovered.[6]


  1. ^ Sterli, Juliana; de la Fuente, Marcelo S.; Krause, J. Marcelo (2015). "A new turtle from the Palaeogene of Patagonia (Argentina) sheds new light on the diversity and evolution of the bizarre clade of horned turtles (Meiolaniidae, Testudinata)". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. 174 (3): 519–548. doi:10.1111/zoj.12252.
  2. ^ Worthy, Trevor H.; Tennyson, Alan J. D.; Hand, Suzanne J.; Godthelp, Henk; Scofield, R. Paul (2011). "Terrestrial Turtle Fossils from New Zealand Refloat Moa's Ark". Copeia. 2011: 72–76. doi:10.1643/CH-10-113.
  3. ^ Anquetin, Jérémy (2012). "Reassessment of the phylogenetic interrelationships of basal turtles (Testudinata)". Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. 10: 3–45. doi:10.1080/14772019.2011.558928.
  4. ^ Sterli, Juliana (2010). "Phylogenetic relationships among extinct and extant turtles: The position of Pleurodira and the effects of the fossils on rooting crown-group turtles". Contributions to Zoology. 79 (3): 93–106. doi:10.1163/18759866-07903002.
  5. ^ a b Sterli, Juliana; de la Fuente, Marcelo S. (2013). "New evidence from the Palaeocene of Patagonia (Argentina) on the evolution and palaeo-biogeography of Meiolaniformes (Testudinata, new taxon name)". Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. 11 (7): 835–852. doi:10.1080/14772019.2012.708674.
  6. ^ Poropat, Stephen F.; Kool, Lesley; Vickers-Rich, Patricia; Rich, Thomas H. (2017). "Oldest meiolaniid turtle remains from Australia: Evidence from the Eocene Kerosene Creek Member of the Rundle Formation, Queensland". Alcheringa: An Australasian Journal of Palaeontology. 41 (2): 231–239. doi:10.1080/03115518.2016.1224441.