A fossilized mandible unearthed in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques in France belongs to a species of amphicyonid unknown to date, say paleontologists associated with the Museum of Natural History in Basel, Switzerland.
Better known as bear dogs, Amphicyonidae are an extinct family of large carnivorous mammals. These animals, closely related to canids, inhabited much of the Northern Hemisphere.
Appeared in the Eocene (36 million years ago) and disappeared in the middle Miocene (7.5 million years ago), they represent one of the most characteristic groups of predators of the ancient fauna. European.
Their body mass ranged from 9 to 320 kg and their diet was typically mesocarnivorous, omnivorous, bone-crushing and hypercarnivorous,” notes paleontologist Bastien Mennecart in a statement released by the museum.
The mandible was unearthed in the small town of Sallespisse, in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in southwestern France. It was extricated from a marine deposit 12 to 12.8 million years old.
Scientists were struck by the dentition of the lower jaw.
The team named the beast Tartarocyon cazanavei, a name inspired by the character of Tartaro, a one-eyed giant from Basque mythology.
The body mass of a Tartarocyon is estimated at 200 kg, making it one of the largest predators that lived in European territory during the Miocene.
Fossil discoveries of terrestrial vertebrates that lived 13 to 11 million years ago in the northern Pyrenees are very rare, the statement noted. This discovery and the description of the lower jaw are all the more important. They offer the opportunity to better understand the evolution of European bear dogs in the environmental context of the time.
The details of this work are published in the journal PeerJ (in English).
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