Scientists discover ancient tortoise the size of a car

Scientists discover ancient tortoise the size of a car

Scientists have discovered one of the largest turtles we record The tortoise, about the size of a small car, lived in Europe 83 million years ago.

Researchers recently described remains discovered in northeastern Spain. The remains belonged to a turtle named Leviathanochelys aenigmatica. It was about 3.7 meters long. It lived during the Cretaceous period – the last time in the age of the dinosaurs. It is Europe’s largest known turtle.

The tortoise was much larger than today’s largest turtle – the leatherback, which can grow up to 2 meters long. Leviathanochelys almost equaled the largest tortoise of all time – Archelon, which lived about 70 million years ago and reached about 4.6 meters in length.

“Leviathanochelys was as long as a Mini Cooper, while Archelon was the same size as a Toyota Corolla,” said Albert Sellés, co-author of the study, of the Institut Català de Paleontologia (ICP).

Leviathanochelys swam in dangerous waters. Its predators include mosasaurs and plesiosaurs, large aquatic creatures up to 15 meters long. Other nearby predators included sharks and rays.

“Attacking an animal the size of Leviathanochelys could possibly only be accomplished by large predators in a marine context. At that time, the major marine predators in the European zone were mainly sharks and mosasaurs,” said Oscar Castillo, a student at the University Autònoma de Barcelona and lead author of the study, published in Scientific Reports.

The dig site where fossils of the large Cretaceous sea turtle Leviathanochelys aenigmatica, which lived about 83 million years ago, was found in the Catalan county of Alt Urgell, northeast Spain, can be seen in this undated handout picture. (Angel Galobart/Museu de la Conca Della – Institut Catala de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont/Handout via REUTERS)

Castillo said sea turtles had larger body sizes during the Cretaceous period. Leviathanochelys and Archelon may have been the greatest examples in this process. “The reason for this increase in height” may have been “predatory pressure,” Castillo said. But, he added, there could have been other causes at work.

Other large tortoises from Earth’s past include Protostega and Stupendemys, both of which grow to around 4 meters in length. Protostega was a Cretaceous sea turtle that lived around 85 million years ago near what is now North America. Stupendemys lived around 7-13 million years ago during the Miocene near modern South America.

Scientists found the remains of Leviathanochelys near the village of Coll de Nargó in the Alt Urgell region of Catalonia. A hiker in the southern Pyrenees saw the bones partially covered by the ground. To date, researchers have found parts of the back of the shell, and most of them Pool- Range, but no skull, tail, or limbs.

The bones indicate the creature had a smooth carapace resembling leatherback turtles, with the carapace itself measuring about 2.35 meters long and 2.2 meters wide. Leviathanochelys appears to be built for the open ocean, rarely returning to land – for example to lay eggs.

The presence of some bony areas on the front of the pelvis differs from all other known sea turtles, suggesting that Leviathanochelys represents a newly discovered lineage – a scientific term meaning a series of organisms linked by a continuous lineage.

The results suggest large sea turtles that evolved independently in separate chalk lines in North America and Europe.

Leviathanochelys aenigmatica means”enigmatic leviathan turtle” due to its size and the odd shape of its pelvis, which researchers suspect is related to its respiratory system.

I’m John Russell.

Will Dunham reported this story for Reuters. John Russell adapted it for VOA Learning English.


words in this story

tortoise – Not. a reptile that lives primarily in the water and has a hard shell covering its body

Pool- adj. are on, in or near the pool

enigmatic – adj. full of mysteries and difficult to understand

Leviathan – Not. something very big and powerful

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