A species of turtle said to grow up to the size of a Volkswagen Beetle was discovered in Europe. Named after leviathan, a Biblical monster, Leviathanochelys aenigmatica was twice the size of leatherback turtles which are currently the largest turtle species.
Leviathanochelys aenigmatica, a marine turtle, is believed to have lived off the coast of Spain 20 million years ago.
According to the Natural History Museum in London, the discovery was made by a person who was hiking the mountains in northern Spain when they stumbled upon bone fragments of the now-extinct turtle.
However it was not until 2021 that these fragments were examined as this excerpt explains: Staff from a nearby museum and the Catalonian Department of Culture then recovered the bones, but they were not studied for years, the release stated. But in 2021, the remains were reexamined and a team began excavating the site, which led researchers to unearth the pelvis and carapace, or shell, of a massive, previously unknown turtle, according to the release."
Their diet consisted of mollusks and jellyfish.
The discovery sheds light on the evolutionary process as museum curator Dr Sandra Chapman explains: “It adds another piece to the puzzle of trends in the evolution of turtles. It supports the idea that extreme sizes are more common prior to an extinction and smaller, but still substantial, sizes predominate afterwards.”