Europe’s largest fossil turtle found

(ORDO NEWS) — In Spain, paleontologists have discovered fossils of a giant tortoise: the prehistoric reptile was the size of a mining truck wheel and almost twice the size of the largest tortoises of our time.

Some fossil species of sea turtles look giant compared to modern ones: for example, archelon, who lived in North America about 80 million years ago, grew up to 4.6 meters in length and weighed almost three tons.

But in Europe, turtles longer than one and a half meters have not yet been found – neither among the living, nor among the extinct species.

Finally, paleontologists from the Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain) were lucky: they discovered the fossils of an animal that was almost as large as Archelon and was one of the largest turtles in the history of the Earth.

The new species was named Leviathanochelys (Leviathanochelys aenigmatica, “mysterious tortoise Leviathan”) he lived at about the same time as Archelon, but differed from him in some anatomical features.

The scientists did not find a whole skeleton, but even using a partially preserved shell and pelvis, they were able to approximately estimate the length of the animal at 3.74 meters.

Judging by the proportions of the pelvis, the carapace of Leviathanochelis was somewhat shorter, but wider than that of Archelon, so that both animals could be approximately the same in weight.

The discovery of a giant tortoise in Europe confirms the hypothesis that in the Late Cretaceous, shortly before the end of the era of dinosaurs, giant tortoises inhabited the entire Northern Hemisphere, feeling great both in the epicontinental Western Inland Sea of ​​North America and in the waters surrounding the islands of the European archipelago.

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Comparison of the size of Leviathanochelis with modern species

It is not yet clear what exactly was the impetus for the Late Cretaceous gigantism of sea turtles. Perhaps the reason for this was the abundance of food, the need for long migrations, or passive protection from predators – for example, giant sea lizards mosasaurs.

Reaching 13-17 meters in length, mosasaurs could cope with almost any prey, but even they would hardly risk attacking massive and well-protected prey, which could well leave them without teeth.

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