A taxonomic reassessment of Piramys auffenbergi, a neglected turtle from the late Miocene of Piram Island, Gujarat, India

PeerJ. 2018 Nov 15;6:e5938. doi: 10.7717/peerj.5938. eCollection 2018.


Background: Piramys auffenbergi was described as an emydine turtle based on a well-preserved skull retrieved from late Miocene deposits exposed on Piram Island, India. The description and figures provided in the original publication are vague and do not support assignment to Emydinae. This taxon has mostly been ignored by subsequent authors.

Material and methods: We reexamine the holotype specimen, provide an extensive description and diagnosis for Piramys auffenbergi, and include this taxon in a global character-taxon matrix for Pleurodira.

Results: The presence of a processus trochlearis pterygoidei conclusively shows pleurodiran affinities for Piramys auffenbergi. Inclusion of this taxon in a phylogenetic analysis retrieves it within Stereogenyini closely related to the Asian taxa Shweboemys pilgrimi and Brontochelys gaffneyi.

Discussion: Our reexamination of the holotype of Piramys auffenbergi confidently rejects the original assessment of this taxon as an emydine testudinoid and conclusively shows affinities with the pleurodiran clade Stereogenyini instead. Even though most taxa from this lineage are thought to be coastal turtles, all Asian stereogenyines were collected from continental deposits, suggesting a more diverse paleoecology for the group.

Keywords: India; Late Miocene; Piram Island; Pleurodira; Stereogenyini; Taxonomy.

Grants and funding

This contribution was funded by grants from the Swiss National Science Foundation to Walter G. Joyce (SNF 20021_153502/2) and the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de São Paulo (FAPESP) to Gabriel S. Ferreira (2014/25379-5 and 2016/03934-2). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.