Some of our favorite animals used to be bigger. The giant beaver of the Pleistocene was the size of a black bear, and the Titanoboa was a snake longer than a school bus and as big around as a tractor tire. There were hippo-sized wombats, humongous sea scorpions, and birds of prey the size of small jets.
A colossal species of turtle has just been discovered in Spain. The creature could grow to be twice the size of a leatherback sea turtle, the largest living turtle species, and it’s one of the largest sea turtles ever found, researchers say.
Like many great paleontological discoveries, including one of the world’s largest dinosaur cemeteries, the creature’s remains were found by accident. A hiker found bone fragments of the now-extinct animal a few years ago in the mountains of northern Spain, according to a statement from the Natural History Museum in London.
But in 2021, the remains were reexamined, and a team began excavating the site, prompting researchers to unearth the pelvis and carapace, or shell, of a massive, previously unknown turtle, according to the publication.
The animal was named Leviathanochelys enigmatic, alluding to a leviathan, a biblical aquatic animal, the publication says. The name was appropriate as the sea-dwelling animal had “colossal body proportions” and could grow up to 12 feet in length, or about the length of a Volkswagen Beetle or two king-size beds, according to the press release. It probably hunted clams and jellyfish.
This big turtle appeared 5 million years after the dinosaurs vanished; at this time, gigantism was relatively common. A combination of factors including abundant food, fewer predators, vast habitat, and climate change, would have worked together to allow turtles and other animals to grow to such sizes.