Paleontologists have found fragments of the shell and other trace fossils of one of the largest turtles in the history of the Earth in northern Spain, 3.74 meters long and weighing more than one ton.
In an article published in the journal Scientific Reports, the researchers noted that it was the largest tortoise in Europe at the end of the Cretaceous.
The researchers said: “Until now, we have not been able to find in Europe the remains of large ancient tortoises with a length of 1.5 meters or more.
According to modern ideas of geneticists and paleontologists, the first turtles appeared on Earth at the end of the Triassic period or the beginning of the Jurassic period. In the later periods of the Mesozoic era, turtles settled all over the earth, and the largest of them, archelon, reached a length of four and a half meters and weighed several tons.
A group of European paleontologists led by researcher Ángel Halubert, head of the scientific group at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain, discovered the remains of giant tortoises of a previously unknown species dating back to prehistoric times, which are the largest reptiles of this genus and lived in the Cretaceous period in Europe.
Almost the entire territory of Europe at that time was submerged in the waters of the ancient Paleo-Tethyan Ocean, which was a shallow water and sea that separated the isolated islands and coastal regions of the great continent of Laurasia. European paleontologists believe that the largest turtles in the history of the Earth lived in this water system.
The remains of this ancient reptile named Leviathanochelys were discovered by paleontologists while studying the deposits of sedimentary rocks of the Middle Campanian stage, formed on the seabed in the foothills of the modern southern Pyrenees 80 million years ago in the vicinity of mountain villages in the regions (Beira Roa and Valdarques), where scientists found shell fragments , as well as some bones of a previously unknown species of ancient tortoise.
A subsequent study of these finds showed that the length of those turtles that inhabited the ancient oceans reached 3.74 m.
According to scientists, the discovery of Leviathanochelys aenigmatica is a significant event for paleontologists, since scientists have not previously been able to find remains of turtles longer than 1.5 meters in Europe, and scientists have come to the conclusion that their find indicates the diversity of marine reptiles. in ancient Europe in the Cretaceous period, under appropriate conditions For large and medium-sized tortoises.