An enormous otter that roamed southwestern China six million years in the past had a surprisingly robust chunk and will have been a high predator, say scientists.
Studies of the animal’s fossilised cranium reveal that it had the chewing means of a bear.
Unlike its dwelling kin, which feed on fish and shellfish, the otter might have eaten a variety of prey.
It was able to crushing large mollusc shells or the bones of birds and rodents, based on a brand new research.
The badysis, revealed within the journal, Scientific Reports, supplies perception into the lifetime of this outsized otter.
Known as Siamogale melilutra, it weighed greater than 50kg and was the scale of a wolf.
Not solely was it bigger than dwelling otters, however its jaws have been extra highly effective.
“We conducted a series of engineering simulations on the jaw models of fossil otters as well as ten living otter species and what we found was that the fossil otter had a jaw that was six times as strong as expected, based on what we see in living species,” Dr Jack Tseng of the University at Buffalo, US, who led the badysis, informed BBC News.
The fossil file of the animal is incomplete. The few cranium fragments which have been found have been present in what was as soon as a swamp or shallow lake surrounded by evergreen forest or dense woodland.
The web site, often known as Shuitangba, has yielded lots of of fossils of animals and crops, that are exceptionally nicely preserved.
“There was a various aquatic fauna at Shuitangba, together with fish, crab, molluscs, turtles and frogs, in addition to many various species of water birds, all of which might have been potential prey for S. melilutra,” mentioned Denise Su, a paleoecologist on the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
The animal’s measurement and jaw power would have made it a formidable hunter.
Although scientists cannot make sure, they badume the otter was uncommon in exploiting a diversified food regimen.
“Carnivores are known to evolve powerful jaws, often for the purpose of cracking the bones of their prey,” mentioned Xiaoming Wang, a curator within the Vertebrate Paleontology Department of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
“In the shallow swamp of South China, it’s possible that an abundance of big clams drove these giant otters to acquire their rare traits, including their crushing teeth and robust jaws.”
Otters are carnivorous mammals which are tailored to looking and dwelling in and round water.
The 13 dwelling otter species are discovered all through the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa.
The otter is discovered throughout the UK, the place it’s steadily returning to rivers after years of conservation efforts.
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