Otters the size of wolves once roamed the planet

Louis Dor
Tuesday 24 January 2017 13:00
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Picture:(Getty / AFP)

Remains of a 6.24 million year old otter, Siamogale Melilutra, has been found that is the size of a wolf.

It is now the largest otter species known to scientists, and the skull of the extinct species had a large, powerful jaw.

Dr. Denise Su, curator & head of paleobotany and paleoecology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, said:

While the cranium is incredibly complete, it was flattened during the fossilisation process.

The bones were so delicate that we could not physically restore the cranium.

Instead, we CT-scanned the specimen and virtually reconstructed it in a computer.

The otter is thought to have weighed around 110 lbs and to have eaten large shellfish and freshwater molluscs. Its habitat is thought to have been a "swampy, shallow lake with quite dense vegetation", according to Dr. Denise Su.

The research following the discovery of the specimen in the Yunnan Province, Southwestern China, published in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, was undertaken by scientists from universities in the United States, France and China.

Dr. Xiaoming Wang, curator and head of vertebrate palaeontology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, said:

The discovery of the otter helps solve some questions about otter relationships, but has opened the door to new questions.

For instance, why was it so large, how did it crack open mollusks and shellfish for food, and how did it move in the water and on land?

Watch the full video, below:

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