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[Animals] Remains of an ancient giant sea turtle found in Europe features never seen before


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Basándose en el examen de los fragmentos de huesos, los científicos han estimado que la especie de tortuga marina recién identificada medía 3,7 metros.

Based on examination of the bone fragments, scientists have estimated that the newly identified sea turtle species measured 3.7 meters. (Credit: ICRA_Arts)

Long ago, gigantic sea turtles swam the Earth's seas. Until recently, these prehistoric animals, which reached a length of more than 3 meters from head to tail, were believed to only be found in the waters surrounding North America.

Now, scientists have discovered a previously unknown species that is the largest European sea turtle ever identified.

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The species, initially found by a hiker who stumbled upon the remains in 2016 in the Pyrenees mountains of northern Spain, has been given the name Leviathanochelys aenigmatica. "Leviathan" is the biblical term for a sea monster, alluding to the large size of the creature's body. "Chelys" translates to turtle and "aenigmática" translates to enigma, referring to the turtle's peculiar characteristics, the authors wrote in a paper published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports.


The presence of this unusual animal in this part of the prehistoric world reveals that giant tortoises were more common than previously thought, according to the study.

Before the discovery, the largest European species measured just 1.5 meters in length, similar to modern leatherbacks, which weigh an average of 300 to 500 kilograms and measure between one and two meters, according to the Smithsonian Institution.

However, bone fragments from this newly identified species have led scientists to estimate that Leviathanochelys had a 3.7-meter-long body, almost as big as an average sedan.

"We never thought it was possible to find something like this. After a long study of the bone fragments, we realized that there were some totally different traits, which were not present in any other fossil of a turtle species discovered so far," he said. Albert Sellés, co-author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at the Miquel Crusafont Catalan Institute of Paleontology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, in Spain.


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