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Car-sized sea turtle unearthed in Europe

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This is the largest known turtle in Europe, which was about 3.7 meters long, weighed just under two tons and lived during the age of the dinosaurs

In the subtropical seas that washed the shores of the archipelago that made up Europe 83 million years ago, one of the largest turtles in history lived. The ancient reptile, the size of a small Mini Cooper car, bravely crossed dangerous waters, reported Reuters/Reuters Science News.

Scientists describe in a publication in the journal “Scientific Reports” the fossils of a turtle called Leviathanochelys aenigmatica found in the northeastern part of Spain. It was about 12 feet (3.7 meters) long, weighed just under two tons, and lived during the Cretaceous period, the last chapter of the age of dinosaurs. It is the largest known turtle in Europe.

The modern giant among these reptiles – the leatherback turtle, which can reach a length of up to two meters and is known for its marathon migrations, is like a dwarf compared to the ancient reptile. However, Leviathanochelys aenigmatica is inferior in size to Archelon – the largest turtle known to science, which lived about 70 million years ago and was approximately 4.6 meters long.

“Leviathanochelys aenigmatica was as long as a Mini Cooper, and Archelon as long as a Toyota Corolla,” said paleontologist and study co-author Albert Seles of the Catalan Institute of Paleontology, a research center affiliated with the Autonomous University of Barcelona. .

It was a good thing for Leviathanochelys aenigmatica to be the size of a car, given the dangerous “traffic” in the ancient Tethys Sea in which it swam. Huge marine reptiles with powerful jaws, called mosasaurs, were the largest predators at the time, with some exceeding 15 meters in length. Various sharks and rays, as well as fish-eating marine reptiles with long necks called plesiosaurs, also lurked.

“During the Cretaceous period, there was a trend towards increasing body size in sea turtles, with Leviathanochelys aenigmatica and Archelon probably being the largest. Predation pressure is a possible reason for this, but other factors are also likely,” says the presenter study author Oscar Castillo of the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

Judging by the fossils, the turtle Leviathanochelys aenigmatica was designed for life in the open ocean, returning to land only on rare occasions, for example, to lay eggs.

The ancient turtle got its “enigmatic” name because of the large size and the curious shape of the pelvis, which according to scientists is related to its respiratory system.

Photo: An illustrated reconstruction of the large Cretaceous Period sea turtle Leviathanochelys aenigmatica, which lived about 83 million years ago and whose fossils were found in Catalonia’s Alt Urgell county in northeastern Spain, is seen in this undated handout image. ICRA_Arts/Museu de la Conca Della – Institut Catala de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont/Handout via REUTERS

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