Jiangxichelys neimongolensis

An illustration of Jiangxichelys neimongolensis, an extinct land turtle, in a walking pose with one foreleg raised up. It resembles a tortoise with a large beak, a long low shell, and thick armored scales around the soles of its feet. It's depicted with a sandy brown color scheme with patches of more reddish-brown on the upper side of its shell.

Jiangxichelys neimongolensis was a terrestrial turtle that was part of an extinct group known as nanhsiungchelyids, whose closest living relatives today are the aquatic softshell turtles.

(This species was previously known as “Zangerlia” neimongolensis, but has since been moved into the genus Jiangxichelys instead.)

It lived towards the end of the Cretaceous, about 75-71 million years ago, in what is now the Gobi Desert – which at the time was more of a semi-arid climate with both rivers and sand dunes.

Its 60cm long (~2′) carapace had a long wide shape that made it appear rather flattened from the front, but not to quite as much an extreme as its larger American cousin Basilemys.

Several fairly well-preserved specimens have been found that appear to have been buried alive, probably either engulfed by sudden sandstorms or trapped in collapsing burrows. This has preserved some anatomical details previously unknown in nanhsiungchelyids, such as the pattern of scales on top of the head and the presence of large bony osteoderms on the underside of the front toes, which may have aided with traction on loose sandy ground.


  • Brinkman, Donald, and Jiang-Hua Peng. “A new species of Zangerlia (Testudines: Nanhsiungchelyidae) from the Upper Cretaceous redbeds at Bayan Mandahu, Inner Mongolia, and the relationships of the genus.” Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 33.4 (1996): 526-540. https://doi.org/10.1139/e96-041
  • Brinkman, Donald B., et al. “New exceptionally well-preserved specimens of “Zangerlia” neimongolensis from Bayan Mandahu, Inner Mongolia, and their taxonomic significance.” Comptes Rendus Palevol 14.6-7 (2015): 577-587. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.crpv.2014.12.005
  • Jerzykiewicz, T., et al. “Djadokhta Formation correlative strata in Chinese Inner Mongolia: an overview of the stratigraphy, sedimentary geology, and paleontology and comparisons with the type locality in the pre-Altai Gobi.” Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 30.10 (1993): 2180-2195. https://doi.org/10.1139/e93-190
  • Tong, Haiyan, and Lu Li. “A revision of the holotype of Nanhsiungchelys wuchingensis, Ye, 1966 (Testudines: Cryptodira: Trionychoidae: Nanhsiungchelyidae).” Cretaceous Research 95 (2019): 151-163. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cretres.2018.11.003
  • Tong, Haiyan, et al. “New material of Jiangxichelys ganzhouensis Tong & Mo, 2010 (Testudines: Cryptodira: Nanhsiungchelyidae) and its phylogenetic and palaeogeographical implications.” Geological Magazine 154.3 (2017): 456-464. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0016756816000108
  • Wikipedia contributors. “Nanhsiungchelyidae.” Wikipedia, 19 Nov. 2023, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanhsiungchelyidae

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