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Turtle morphology is unlike that of any other vertebrate. The uniqueness of the turtle's bodyplan is attributed to the manner in which the turtle's ribs are ensnared within its hard upper shell. The exact embryological and genetic mechanisms underpinning this peculiar anatomical structure are still a matter of debate, but biologists agree that the evolution of the turtle shell lies in the embryonic development of the turtle.
Acid dissolution is a technique of removing a fossil from the surrounding rock matrix in which it is encased by dissolving that matrix with acid. Fossilized bone, though strong enough to be preserved for thousands or millions of years, is often more delicate than rock. Once a fossil is discovered, scientists must remove the fossil from its surroundings without damaging the fossil itself.
Two main elements characterize the skeletal morphology of turtles: the carapace and the plastron. For a turtle, the carapacial ridge begins in the embryo as a bulge posterior to the limbs but on both sides of the body. Such outgrowths are the first indication of shell development in turtle embryos. While the exact mechanisms underpinning the formation of the carapacial ridge are still not entirely known, some biologists argue that understanding these embryonic mechanisms is pivotal to explaining both the development of turtles and their evolutionary history.
Written, produced, and directed by Toby Mcdonald, the 2005 National Geographic Channel film In the Womb uses the most recent technology to provide an intricate glimpse into the prenatal world. The technologies used, which include advanced photography, computer graphics, and 4-D ultrasound imaging, help to realistically illustrate the process of development and to answer questions about the rarely seen development of a human being.