Lesvos in the Past
Of Tortois and Turtles PDF Print E-mail
Tortoises live on the land, whereas turtles live in the water. Their anatomy is adapted to their way of life, and by this they can be easily distinguished from each other. The shell of tortoises is very convex, heavy and completely ossified, whereas the shell of turtles is more flattened and incompletely ossified. Another difference between tortoises and turtles is the shape of their feet. Tortoises have short, club-shaped feet with blunt claws, whereas turtles have more mobile limbs with distinct digits and sharp claws, united with a web. Sea turtles are more typical than freshwater and swamp turtles, which are actually closely related to the tortoises whereas the sea turtles are not.


A tortoise with convex shell and broad feet.
Testudo hipparionum from China.


A turtle with flattened shel and winged feet.
Photograph Janet Kamphorst.

The Birds PDF Print E-mail

Fossil bird remains are even more rare than those of reptiles. That is because their bones are extremely fragile. Bird bones are hollow, to save weight and make flying possible. The limb bones found at Vatera may belong to an eagle (Aquila sp.).

The rarity of bird fossils gives the wrong impression that birds were scarce around Vatera, two million years ago. That was not the case, and the area was as full with birds as it is today. Even more, also large birds like eagles inhabited the sky. At present, such large wild birds become more and more rare.

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