A large otter the dimensions of a wolf, roamed the wooded marshlands of China’s Yunnan Province about 6 000 0000 yrs ago. Xiaoming Wang, curator of vertebrate paleontology with the Natural History Museum of Chicago County in California, and her team came to this conclusion after an extensive study of fossils located in the 6.2 million-year-old sediment of the Shuitangba coal mine in Yunnan, China really and 2015.
Though the group unearthed servings of as a minimum three skeletons in the new species, it was the discovery with the mammal’s skull that shed the most light around the prehistoric creature. However, extracting information from your fossil was not a easy task due to the fact it absolutely was flattened throughout the fossilization process. Team member Dr. Denise Su from your Cleveland Museum of Natural History says, “The bones were so delicate that we could hardly physically restore the cranium.”
Study co-author Stuart White, a professor emeritus of maxillofacial radiology for the University of California, La, spent months painstakingly taking CT scans of each part of the fossil and developing a 3D picture of the skull. Wang says it absolutely was like “playing a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle, in order to be done by rabbit instead of hands.”
But the time and effort was worth every penny. The cranial images indicated that although ancient animal had the skull associated with an otter, its teeth were similar to the modern-day badger, leading the researchers to call it Siamogale melilutra (in Latin, meles means badger and lutra means otter). The scientists, who published their findings inside the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology on January 23, mention that the otter was about two to three times larger than its modern-day counterpart. Presume that it was part of among the many oldest and the majority primitive otter lineages, dating back 18 million years to the European badger-like animal Paralutra.
The mammal’s low-crowned, round, cusped teeth indicate that much like modern-day otters, the standard animals survived dieting of mollusks and shellfish. However, judging within the strong jaw and skull, the study feel that unlike today’s otters, who use a combination of rocks and teeth to compromise the tough shells, these powerful animals used just their teeth.
The mystery that is still ‘s the reason regarding their massive size. In line with Su, carnivores usually got bigger in answer towards growing dimensions of their prey. However, the clams and shellfish that your ancient mammals ate would not pose this problem. The scientists also are wondering just how the large-bodied animals made it possible to walk on land and swim. Hopefully, future fossil finds of them majestic otters might help answer some of those questions.