The first turtles already existed in the era of the dinosaurs

some 200 million years ago. Turtles are the only surviving branch of the even more ancient clade Anapsida, which includes groups such as the procolophonoids, millerettids and pareiasaurs. All anapsid skulls lack a temporal opening. All other extant amniotes have temporal openings (although in mammals the hole has become the zygoid arch). Most of the anapsids became extinct in the late Permian period, with the exception of the procolophonoids and the precursors of the testudines (turtles).

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However, it has recently been suggested that the anapsid condition of the turtle skull may not be a primitive character reflecting anapsid descent, but rather a case of convergent evolution. More recent phylogenetic studies with this in mind have placed turtles firmly within diapsids, slightly closer to Squamata than to Archosauria. All molecular studies have strongly upheld this new phylogeny, though some place turtles closer to Archosauria. Re-analysis of prior phylogenies that affirmed an anapsid ancestry suggests that their inclusion of turtles within Anapsida was due to both the starting assumption that they were anapsid (most prior phylogenies concerned what sort of anapsid they were) and also due to insufficiently broad sampling of fossil and extant taxa for construction of the cladogram. While the issue is far from resolved, most scientists now lean towards a Diapsid origin for turtles.

Above Images Are From The N.O.A.A.