The N.C. Aquarium at Fort Fisher welcomed a new exhibit last week, DINOSAURS! Not to worry, these dinosaurs are not real. Massive animatronic beasts will roar, spit and wow visitors in the Aquarium’s outdoor gardens. Some of these extinct prehistoric beasts actually lived alongside sea turtle species that were very similar to ones that live today.
Discovered fossils show turtles first started swimming 164 million years ago. Dinosaurs went extinct 65 million years ago and lived on Earth for 180 million years. They coexisted with prehistoric turtles for a long time. These turtle species belonged to a group of reptiles called Archelon, Greek for “ruler turtle” named after its enormous size. The largest Archelon fossil was found in South Dakota and measured more than 13 feet long and 16 feet wide (from front flipper to front flipper). That is more than twice the size of an adult leatherback sea turtle. Its fossils were found in South Dakota because when it lived, the ocean covered most of the United States. The Archelon is closely related to the leatherback sea turtle because it did not have a solid structured shell. Instead Archelon had a leathery carapace. It is important to remember the Archelon was not a dinosaur, but instead a prehistoric reptile.
Oftentimes people confuse fossils for anything relating to dinosaurs, but fossils are remains or impressions of prehistoric organisms. These organisms could be dinosaurs, reptiles, bugs, or even plants. We use these fossils as important clues to learn about our planet’s past, which is how we know dinosaurs roamed the earth and that sea turtles lived when they did.
Even though sea turtles outlived the dinosaurs, it is important to note they are facing issues today that could leave their species extinct. There are many easy ways to help sea turtles, check them out here.
If you are interested in visiting DINOSAURS! here at the NC Aquarium at Fort Fisher, make sure you visit us before September. Our present-day hatchlings here at the Aquarium are continuing to grow! Turtle A now weighs 977 grams and measures 18.3 cm long and Turtle B now weighs 866 grams and measures 17.4 cm long. You can use this data in our Hatchling to Yearling lesson plan.