The species Mallon and Brinkman wrote up is intermediate in age between the Campanian forms B. variolosa and B. gaffneyi and the upper Maastrichtian forms B. sinuosa and B. praeclara. It is also intermediate in its morphology, possessing a unique suite of both plesiomorphic — divided extragulars — and derived, square epiplastral beak, pygal wider than long, traits.
The Horseshoe Canyon specimen also boasts an autapomorphic square cervical scale. Phylogenetic analysis assuming parsimony recovers B. morrinensis in a polytomy with B. variolosa and B. gaffneyi, outside the clade formed by the upper Maastrichtian forms B. sinuosa and B. praeclara. The holotype of Basilemys morrinensis provides the first evidence that this genus reached a fairly large size, sometimes over a meter in length in the Horseshoe Canyon Formation, so not as small as previously thought based on less complete shell material.
The Horseshoe Canyon specimen was found with well-preserved fossils of Equisetum or horsetail. The Basilemys from Sustut was also found in association with plant fossils. So, aquatic, yes. But swampy freshwater aquatic. Or perhaps wet woods and the peripheries of water bodies — lakes, rivers, ponds. We know horsetails prefer a moist location and it appears our dear Basilymys did also.
Image One: Basilemys morrinensis, CMN 57059, shell, in A, dorsal, B, ventral, C, right lateral, and D, anterior views. Photo: Donald B. Brinkman
Image Two: Depositional context of CMN 57059. Segmented stalks of Equisetum cf. E. perlaevigatum (marked by arrowheads) found associated with shell. B, CMN 57059 as it was originally uncovered in the field (CMN negative #61554). Scale bar equals 8 cm (A). Photo: Donald B. Brinkman
Mallon, J. C., and D. B. Brinkman. 2018. Basilemys morrinensis, a new species of nanhsiungchelyid turtle from the Horseshoe Canyon Formation (Upper Cretaceous) of Alberta, Canada. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2018.1431922.