Spain, extinct sea turtle, enigmatic leviathan, Autonomous University of Barcelona, Late Cretaceous period

The remains of the largest sea turtle in Europe are discovered in Spain (+ Photos)


A group of paleontologists from Spanish and Czech scientific institutions discovered a new species of extinct sea turtle, considered the largest that has been found in European territory to date, since it measured more than twice the size of current sea turtles, reported this Thursday the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

According to those responsible for the discovery, published in the journal Scientific Reports, the new specimen of marine reptile, named Leviathanochelys aenigmatica, was identified from its fossilized bone fragments, which were found for the first time in 2016 by a hiker near the municipality of Coll de Nargó, in the Catalan Pyrenees.

In subsequent excavations carried out between 2016 and 2021, the posterior part of the shell and an almost complete pelvis were recovered, elements that date to the Late Cretaceous period, between 83.6 and 72.1 million years ago.

Specialists suggested that the 'enigmatic leviathan' had a body length of approximately 3.74 meters. They also estimated that the pelvis of the new specimen measured 88.9 centimeters wide and 39.5 centimeters long. "The morphology of the fossils was also very curious, in the research process we were clear that it was a new species for science," said researcher Oscar Castillo.

In addition to its large dimensions, the new species had two bulges never seen in other sea or land turtles, which protruded from the front of the pelvis. According to the researchers, these bony projections could be related to their respiratory system, which is why it is thought that they had a pelagic lifestyle (far from the coast) and was capable of reaching great depths.

The largest species of sea turtle in Europe

Due to its size and morphology, the enigmatic leviathan becomes the largest sea turtle species in Europe, as well as the second largest in the world, surpassed only by the genus Archelon, which was found in North America and is believed to be it was up to 4.5 meters long.

"We are optimistic and believe that it is possible to find more species of giant tortoises in Europe," said the scientist Àngel Hernández Luján, who added that "fragmentary remains of large sea turtles have been found throughout Europe, but none of them is as complete as Leviathanochelys". (Text and photo: RT in Spanish)


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