2022 AMI Online Salon

Eunotosaurus: Rethinking Turtle Origins

Project Detail

  • Entrant Name:  Annelis Rivera-Del Río
  • Client: Gabriel Bever
  • Copyright:  Annelis Gabriela Rivera-Del Río, 2022
  • Medium/software used: Adobe XD
  • Final presentation format: MPEG 4
  • Primary Audience: Post-Secondary Students, Graduate Students, Professors

Project Description

How did turtles evolve? This question is as old as systematics itself. The Middle Permian reptile Eunotosaurus africanus, first described over a century ago but never modeled digitally until now, provides key insights into this age-old question. This interactive was developed to contextualize a novel reconstruction of the Eunotosaurus skull that I created for further study and outreach. It is meant to teach how this fossil informs the origin of the turtle body plan. It enables students and teachers to do two things:  appreciate how fossils contribute to our understanding of modern species, and exercise basic evolutionary science skills like comparative morphological analysis, tree-thinking, and making educated inferences. These skills correspond with the three major sections of the application:  Morphology, Phylogeny, and Resources. The didactic content for this application follows best practices for visualizing and teaching macroevolution. The phylogenetic tree, for example, is validated by primary literature on improving diagrammatic literacy in evolutionary science. The rotated branches visually disrupt erroneous preconceptions about the progression of evolution while the right angles visually reinforce divergence events at nodes. The text within avoids using design-oriented terms and makes crucial distinctions between “crown” and “stem” groups. An interactive medium was chosen for this work because it is ideal for teaching nuanced material while managing cognitive load.