A new ancient giant sea turtle was found in Europe
Apparently, millions of years ago giant sea turtles swam in Earth's seas. Until recently these prehistoric giants, reaching over 3 meters in length from head to tail, were thought to be found only in the waters surrounding North America. In 2021, scientists discovered an unknown species of a huge ancient sea turtle in Spain with a length of 3.74 m, which is now the largest sea turtle found in Europe.
The fossil was discovered by a hiker in 2016 in the Pyrenees mountains of northern Spain, but no one examined the bones for nearly five years. Researchers at the Catalan Institute of Paleontology of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, led by Ángel Luján and Albert Seles, began studying the bones in 2021, and realized that they had a new species of sea turtle completely new to science. They soon returned to the site to conduct more excavations.
The species was named Leviathanochelys aenigmatica. "Leviathan" is a biblical term for a sea monster while "chelys" translates as turtle and "aenigmatica" translates to enigma - in reference to the strange characteristics of the turtle. The researchers published the paper of the discovery in the Scientific Reports journal on November 17, 2022. The research team estimated that the ancient animal lived during the Cretaceous Period, making it at least 72 million years old.
The largest sea turtle fossil recorded in the world was found in South America, it is called Archelon ischyros and is 4.5 m long. The fossil can be found in the Natural History Museum of Vienna and is estimated to have lived about 70 million years ago.
The Spanish scientists concluded that giant sea turtles did not only develop in North America but now also in Europe.
Read the article here.