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STATES CHRONICLE – Scientists have discovered that ancient China was once populated by animals like a wolf size otter named Siamogale melilutra. This animal was a huge-sized otter which weighed approximately 110 pounds, being about the scale of a wolf. The otter had rounded cheek teeth and a powerful jaw. It fed on giant mollusks and shellfish.
This species lived approximately 6.24 million years ago, meaning about six million years before the evolution of modern humans. If humans were contemporary with this species, it would have definitely taken them down in a fight, not being able to hunt it. A new study about this species was published this week in the Journal of Systematic Paleontology, according to remains revealed at Shuitangba, a mine rich in fossils in northern China.
Before this study, S. melilutra was only known due to a discovery made in Thailand a few years ago which only uncovered its teeth. The discovery back then hinted at the magnificent creature and its massive size. Nevertheless, those findings were not enough to name it a new species. The discovery included unearthing the otter’s mandible, limb bones, a complete cranium and some teeth.
Denise Su, the co-author of the study and also a curator of paleobotany and paleoecology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, has argued that she together with her team were extremely fortunate to uncover this creature. The fossils were altered by the fossilization process, but, nevertheless, scientists managed to CT scan them and then virtually reconstruct them. In this way, they were able to reveal the wolf size otter, a member of the most primitive lineages in the otter family.
Even if researchers know that the creature is a member of the otter family, it had featured which more likely resemble those of badgers. Specialists claim that this species was twice as big as the South American river otter and four times as big as the North American river otter. The teeth of this animal were compared with the teeth of a pig, a human or a bear, having rounded cusps.
Su and her colleagues were wondering if these characteristics were inherited from a common ancestor. After performing an analysis on the evolutionary family tree, they revealed that bunodont teeth were encountered in other otter species as a consequence of convergent evolution.
Image courtesy of: pixabay