JOHNSON CITY (press release)—The Gray Fossil Site has produced another animal that is completely new to science. This time, it is an ancient type of small pond turtle.
The new species, Sternotherus palaeodorus, derives from the name of a living genus, Sternotherus, but is represented by the name palaeodorus. The name combines the Greek palaios, meaning “old” and the Latin odorus, which means “stinky.” Its nickname is subsequently “Old Stinky.” Specimens are now on exhibit at the museum.
Dr. Blaine Schubert, associate professor in the Department of Geosciences at East Tennessee State University and director of the ETSU and General Shale Natural History Museum, recently completed a paper about two new species of the oldest fossil musk turtles known, one of which was discovered at the Gray Fossil Site. The paper was completed with Jason Bourque, a paleontologist and preparator at the Florida Museum of Natural History who is particularly well-known for his research on turtles. The paper was published earlier this year in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology and describes two new species of musk turtles, one from Gray and the other from Florida.
Musk turtles are small and spend much of their time underwater. These turtles earned the name “musk turtle” from their ability to emit a foul, musky odor from scent glands along the edge of their shell.
The ETSU and General Shale Natural History Museum and Gray Fossil Site showcases the 5 million-year-old Gray Fossil Site and its ecosystem. Visitors are invited to observe live excavations from May through October. There are also special events held at the museum, such as lunchtime lectures each month, “Fossil and Artifact ID Nights” every other month and many ongoing youth programs, including the summer Paleo Camps which are currently under way.