Testudo lunellensis Almera and Bofill, 1903 from the Middle Pleistocene of Cova de Gràcia (Park Güell, Barcelona, Spain) is a valid species belonging to the clade of the extant Testudo hermanni – a diagnostic feature being the narrowed vertebral scutes. Thanks to still unpublished material, T. lunellensis is diagnosed for the first time and its shell morphology described in detail. This species is uniquely characterized, among others, by tall peripheral bones and by a peculiar shape of the anterior lobe of the plastron, somewhat recalling the species referred to Testudo s.s. (the clade containing the extant species Testudo graeca, Testudo kleinmanni and Testudo marginata). Given that the purported valid species from Lunel-Viel (Middle Pleistocene, France) is still unnamed and undescribed, T. lunellensis from Cova de Gràcia is currently the stratigraphically youngest extinct Testudo species. The co-occurrence in T.lunellensis of characters typical of both T. hermanni and Testudo s.s. further testifies the phenotypic plasticity of tortoises and the mosaic distribution of morphological characters, which hinders a clear-cut assessment of the relationships of extant tortoises when based exclusively on morphology. Further analyses of the phylogeny of Testudo should consider fossil and extant taxa together, as well as both morphological and genetic characters.
Biologie et écologie de la Tortue d’Hermann (Testudo hermanni Gmelin 1789). Contribution de l’espéce à la connaissance des climats quaternaires de la France.
Mém. Trav. Inst. E. P. H. E. Montpellier13:
Phenotipic plasticity leads to incongruence between morphology-based taxonomy and genetic differentiation in western Palaearctic tortoises (Testudo graeca complex; Testudines, Testudinidae).
Regnum animal. In:
Caroli a Linne Systema Naturae Per Regna Tri Naturae Secundum Classes Ordines Genera Species Cum Characteribus Differentiis Synonymis Locis
Morales PérezJ.V.SerraA.S. (2009):
The Quaternary fossil record of the genus Testudo in the Iberian Peninsula. Archaeological implications and diachronic distribution in the western Mediterranean.
J. Archaeol. Sci.36: