In Spain, researchers have found the fossil of one of the giants of the oceans that lived on our planet 83 to 72 million years ago. This is an impressive turtle whose shell indicates that it could measure almost 4 meters in length.
Until today, the largest sea turtle ever documented was Archelon, a species that went extinct towards the end of the Late Cretaceous, around 66 million years ago. It was only slightly larger than the one just discovered, making it one of the largest sea turtles on the planet to have swum in European waters. The species newly found by scientists has been named “Leviathanochelys aenigmatica”.
The first part refers to Leviathan, a marine beast from the Bible that was actually a sea serpent, while the last part is taken from the Greek name “aínigma” which means “enigma”, in connection with the particular anatomical characteristics found on the turtle’s pelvis and shell. These are the same characteristics that showed the authors of the study that they were in the presence of a new speciesand maybe even a new group of turtles.
The prehistoric giant was found in the locality of Cal Torrades, in the northeast of Spain, where its fossil would have remained hidden under the surface for around 80 million years. Its existence therefore dates back to the Campanian era, a time when rising sea levels allowed the ocean to reclaim coastal areas, while fearsome predators like the Helicoprion, with its spiral jaws , prowled in the waters.
A species of almost 4 meters
Researchers were able to locate the turtle’s pelvis and parts of its shell. A unique bone structure on its pelvis indicates that the find represents a new family of turtles, as this startling feature had never been observed on the remains of other species. According to the scientists involved in the study, its function could be linked to a unique breathing capacity.
“Until now, we thought that the biggest turtles navies that never sailed the oceans, such as the protostegids Archelon and Protostega, were restricted to North America during the late Cretaceous. The discovery of the bizarre new gigantic chelonioid Leviathanochelys aenigmatica in the Middle Campanian marine deposits of the Southern Pyrenees, which rivals Archelon in size, sheds light on the diversity of sea turtles and how the phenomenon of gigantism in these groups also performed in Europe” can we read in the study report.
Incredible, isn’t it?
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