Savage, Jay M. Department of Biology, University of Miami, Coral Gables, Florida.
Gaffney, Eugene S. Department of Vertebrate Paleontology, American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York.
Last reviewed:December 2015
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An anapsid order of the class Reptilia, including the turtles, terrapins, and tortoises; also termed Chelonii, Testudinata, and Testudines. The order Chelonia (often referred to as Chelonii, Testudinata, and Testudines) comprises one of the oldest groups of reptiles on Earth. Members of the order Chelonia (chelonians) first appeared in the Triassic, being among the commonest fossils from that time. Extant chelonians [including such popular species as box turtles (Fig. 1) and the painted turtle (Fig. 2)] are most frequently found in freshwater streams, lakes, and ponds or in marshy areas. However, a number of strictly terrestrial species are known (Fig. 3), and several species are marine (Fig. 4). Turtles occur on all the major continents and continental islands in tropic and temperature regions. The marine forms are basically tropic in distribution, but some individuals stray into temperate waters. See also: Anapsida; Fossil; Reptilia; Triassic
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