Temporal range: Turonian-Campanian, 91–75 Ma
Holotype skull of Khunnuchelys lophorhothon
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Testudines
Suborder: Cryptodira
Superfamily: Trionychia
Family: Trionychidae
Subfamily: Trionychinae
Genus: Khunnuchelys
Brinkman et al., 1993
Type species
Khunnuchelys erinhotensis
Brinkman et al., 1993
  • K. erinhotensis Brinkman et al., 1993
  • K. kizylkumensis Brinkman et al., 1993
  • K. lophorhothon Danilov et al., 2013
Synonyms of K. kizulkumensis[1]
Synonyms of K. lophorhothon[2]
  • Trionychidae indet. Kordikova, 1994
  • cf. Lophorhothon sp. Nessov, 1995
  • Khunnuchelys sp. Nessov, 1997
  • Khunnuchelys sp. 1 Danilov and Vitek, 2012
  • Khunnuchelys sp. 2 Danilov and Vitek, 2012

Khunnuchelys was a genus of trionychine turtle from the Late Cretaceous of Asia. Three species are known, K. erinhotensis, the type species, K. kizylkumensis, and K. lophorhothon. K. erinhotensis is known from the Iren Dabasu Formation in China from the late Turonian until the middle Campanian. K. kizylkumensis is known from the late Turonian Bissekty Formation of Uzbekistan. The third species, described in 2013 by Danilov et al., is known from the early to middle Campanian aged Bostobe Formation of Kazakhstan.

History of naming

K. lophorothon is known from two skulls, and has a complex history of classifications. Originally, it was assigned to the dinosaur genus cf. Lophorhothon by Lev Alexandrovitch Nessov in 1995 as an unidentified species. Later, it was correctly transferred to the genus Khunnuchelys by Danilov and Vitek (2012), but was not described in any detail. The two skulls were named Khunnuchelys sp. 1 and Khunnuchelys sp. 2. by them. The finder of the second skull was Mikhail E. Voskoboynikov, who allowed it to be studied by Lev I. Khosatzky.[2]

K. lophorothon emends the original classification of the species, as the species name if derived from the name of Lophorhothon, the dinosaur it was originally classified under.[2]



Skull ZIN PH 1/146, one of two skulls assigned to K. lophorhothon

Khunnuchelys is an extinct turtle is which many skulls are known from. In fact, is the only skull-based trionychid from the Cretaceous.[2] The side of the maxillary makes up a beak-like structure, an unusual feature of trionychids.[1] One skull, ZIN PH 1/146, is relatively small, and is only partly preserved. The maxilla and prefrontals of the specimen are only partly known, although the jugals, basioccipitals, supraoccipital crest, and left quadrate are close to complete. The preserved skull length is 9 cm (3.5 in), and the total approximate skull is 17 cm (6.7 in) long. The specimen is unique among Khunnuchelys, as the ventral edge is generally well-preserved. The ventral edge shows that the skull of Khunnuchelys is arched from the front to the back.[2]

Distinguishing characteristics

A set of features unique among trionychids were identified by Brinkman et al. in 1993 during the description of Khunnuchelys erinhotensis and K. kisylkumensis. They are listed below:[2]

The characteristics would not be useful if Khunnuchelys was not a trionychid, but Brinkman et al. found that a classification as a trionychid was likely because of the features listed below:[2]

K. lophorothon is distinguished from the other species by the features listed below, found by Danilov et al. in its description:[2]

Both species can be differentiated from K. erinhotensis:[2]


Khunnuchelys is a turtle that is grouped within Trionychinae, a subfamily of Trionychidae. The species "Trionyx" kansaiensis is known from shell fragments, that are from the same region of Kazakhstan as K. lophorothon, and might be from the later, in which case, "T." kansaiensis might be synonymous with K. lophorothon. Brinkman et al. found that Khunnuchelys was closely related to Conchochelys, but even though it is likely, Danilov et al. did not find any features to prove their close relationship.[2]


  1. ^ a b Vitek, N.A.; Danilov, I.G. (2013). "Soft-shelled turtles (Trionychidae) from the Bissekty Formation (Upper Cretaceous: Turonian) of Uzbekistan: Skull-based taxa and probable skull-shell associations" (PDF). Cretaceous Research. 43 (2013): 48–58. doi:10.1016/j.cretres.2013.02.009. hdl:2152/41078. S2CID 128940175. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2021-08-31. Retrieved 2014-02-24.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Danilov, I.G.; Vitek, N.S.; Averianov, A.O.; Glinskiy, V.N. (2013). "A new softshelled trionychid turtle of the genus Khunnuchelys from the Upper Cretaceous Bostobe Formation of Kazakhstan" (PDF). Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. doi:10.4202/app.2013.0045. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-02-28.