Paleontologists in Spain believe they unearthed a new prehistoric sea turtle species that may be among the largest ever, according to research published last week in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports.
Researchers at the Autonomous University of Barcelona analyzed the pelvis bone and posterior part of the shell recovered from the Pyrenees mountain region in northeastern Spain in 2016 and 2021, and determined the turtle was about 12 feet long (just smaller than the average sedan), according to a news release on the study.
A hiker traversing the Pyrenees in 2016 stumbled upon part of the fossil. He called the local authorities who recovered the fossil and transferred it to a local museum, where it sat for years until 2021, according to Albert Sellés, a researcher with the university’s Miquel Crusafont Catalan Institute of Paleontology.
That’s when researchers decided to examine the fossil further, Sellés said.
Paleontologists returned to the site where the fossil was found in early 2021 and unearthed another piece of the fossil, according to Sellés.
Sellés, who co-authored the study, said the team began comparing newly discovered remains to other giant ancient sea turtles in the fossil record like Archelon and Protostega, both of which roamed the waters near North America and were the best potential matches. But the fossils had distinct features. Its shell was different, as was its pelvis.