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Huge prehistoric otter was the size of a wolf

Posted on Friday, 10 November, 2017 | Comment icon 8 comments

China's prehistoric otters were much larger than today's species. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Garry Knight
The remarkable species, which once roamed what is now China, had a bite comparable to that of a bear.
Fossil fragments from the species, which date back over six million years, were unearthed at a site in southwestern China known as Shuitangba which was once a swamp surrounded by dense woodland.

The otter, which has been dubbed Siamogale melilutra, was much larger than today's otters at around the size of a wolf and weighed up to 50kg.

Unlike its modern counterparts which eat fish and shellfish, this prehistoric species had an appetite for just about any sort of prey and possessed powerful jaws capable of delivering a devastating bite.

"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," said Dr Jack Tseng of the University at Buffalo.

This means that Siamogale melilutra had the chewing ability of a bear.

"Carnivores are known to evolve powerful jaws, often for the purpose of cracking the bones of their prey," said palaeontologist Xiaoming Wang.

"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."

Source: BBC News | Comments (8)

Tags: Otter

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Likely Guy on 9 November, 2017, 18:12
I saw my first up close otter this summer. Thankfully he was only 1/10th the size.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Hammerclaw on 9 November, 2017, 18:45
The Northern Sea Otter males are in the same size range and can weigh in excess of a hundred pounds(46 kilos) but lack the massive jaws of this species.
Comment icon #3 Posted by aztek on 9 November, 2017, 21:35
everything was bigger back than i've read about flying predator as big as jumbo jet, and dragonflies 2-3 feet long, they think oxygen level was higher back than, biologists did an experiment, they had dragonfliesgrow in oxygen rich environment, they did grow huge,
Comment icon #4 Posted by paperdyer on 10 November, 2017, 20:09
Do we have proof the critter ate anything or is this just a theory? It's a good one, but it seems strange that the modern otter, as cute and funny as they are, only eat fish. Maybe the fish were nastier back then and the otter needed the jaws.
Comment icon #5 Posted by rashore on 10 November, 2017, 20:14
Holy shades of Hyrax!!!
Comment icon #6 Posted by aztek on 10 November, 2017, 20:17
yea, if otters were the size of a wolf, how big were the wolves?
Comment icon #7 Posted by _KB_ on 11 November, 2017, 17:59
I kinda wan't one now... you know as a pet
Comment icon #8 Posted by freetoroam on 11 November, 2017, 18:05
About the size of the otter.

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