Sea turtles are an ancient animal. Their relatives have roamed Earth’s waters for millions of years. Some species such as the protostegid Archelon, a behemoth of the Late Cretaceous period, dominated the seas with their impressive size. An exciting new fossil discovered in Spain suggests a previously unknown species of ancient marine turtle was the size of a rhino. This exciting discovery was recently announced in Scientific Reports.
Part of an enormous pelvis and carapace were recently unearthed in the Cal Torrades region of Spain. The bones are 80 million years old. Spiny protrusions on the pelvis first indicated to paleontologists that they had discovered a new species of marine turtle. None of the other gigantic species of turtle had the little spines, and these species were also not native to Europe. Named Leviathanochelys aenigmatica, the giant’s skeleton indicates it may have measured 13 feet from head to toe. It roamed the seas near what is now Europe during the Campanian Age as sea levels rose over what was once land. The name references an “enigma,” a curious creature indeed.
Previously it was thought the largest ancient sea turtles lived in American waters. This new discovery disrupts those ideas. The paper authors write, “The discovery of the new, gigantic and bizarre chelonioid Leviathanochelys aenigmatica from the Middle Campanian marine deposits of the Southern Pyrenees, which rivals in size to Archelon, sheds a light on the diversity of marine turtles and on how the phenomenon of gigantism in these groups was also occurring in Europe.” Perhaps other big discoveries will be next.
A newly discovered fossil in Spain reveals a giant marine turtle the size of a rhino known as Leviathanochelys aenigmatica.
h/t: [IFL Science]