A fossilized lower jaw has led an international team of paleontologists, led by Bastien Mennecart of the Basel Natural History Museum, to discover a new species of predator that once lived in Europe. These large predators belong to a group of carnivores colloquially known as “bear dogs”. They could weigh around 320 kilograms and appeared 36 million years ago before disappearing around 7.5 million years ago.
Paleontologist Bastien Mennecart and his research group have accurately described the fossilized lower jaw of a carnivore and discovered that it must be a specimen of a new species. The jawbone comes from 12.8 to 12 million year old marine deposits that were examined in the small community of Sallespisse in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department of southwestern France.
The teeth of time
The jaw was striking because of its teeth. Unlike familiar amphicyonid specimens, this animal has a single lower fourth premolar. This tooth is particularly important in determining species and genera. Accordingly, the examined lower jaw probably represents a new genus. His name is Tartarocyon. This name comes from Tartaro, a big, powerful and one-eyed giant from Basque mythology. The legend of Tartarus is also known in Béarn, the region where the lower jaw was found. Floréal Solé, a world-renowned specialist in carnivorous mammals, Jean-François Lesport and Antoine Heitz of the Basel Natural History Museum chose the name of the new genus.
The fossilized lower jaw can be classified as belonging to predators that resembled a cross between a bear and a large dog, known as a “bear dog”. Their scientific name is Amphicyonidae. They belong to a group of carnivores like dogs, cats, bears, seals and badgers. These predators were largely part of the European fauna of the Miocene (23 to 5.3 million years ago). They were very species-rich and diverse, weighing between 9 kg and 320 kg. Tarataroyon is estimated at 200 kg. The last European Amphicyonidae disappeared at the end of the Miocene 7.5 million years ago.
Key Contemporary Witnesses
Finds of fossilized terrestrial vertebrates that lived on the northern edge of the Pyrenees 13 to 11 million years ago are very rare. The discovery and description of the lower jaw is even more significant. This is because it offers the opportunity to explore the development of European “bear dogs” in the context of current known environmental events.
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Floréal Solé et al, A new gigantic carnivore (Carnivora, Amphicyonidae) from the Upper Middle Miocene of France, PeerJ (2022). DOI: 10.7717/peerj.13457
Quote: Paleontologists discover a new type of “bear dog”, a large predator of the Pyrenees (2022, June 15) retrieved on June 16, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-06-paleontologists-dog-large- predator-pyrenees.html
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