Story By: Ana Marjanovic, Sub-Editor: Michael Leidig, Agency: Newsflash
An international team of scientists has identified a new species of ancient predator that was part bear and part dog and roamed Europe millions of years ago.
The new genus has been named ‘Tartarocyon’, a nod to a large, powerful, one-eyed giant from Basque mythology.
The international team of experts, led by Bastien Mennecart from the Natural History Museum Basel, in Switzerland, made the discovery after studying a fossilised jaw that they determined belonged to a new type of “bear dog”.
The species of large carnivorous animal is believed to have weighed as much as 320 kilogrammes (705 lbs), appearing in Europe 36 million years ago before going extinct about 7.5 million years ago.
The palaeontologists explained in a statement that “the jawbone comes from 12.8 to 12 million-year-old marine deposits that were examined in the small community of Sallespisse in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques department of south-western France.”
They explained that the fossilised bone was particularly striking due to its teeth. They said: “Unlike the familiar amphicyonidae specimens, this animal has a unique fourth lower premolar. This tooth is particularly important for determining species and genera.
“Correspondingly, the lower jaw examined probably represents a new genus. It is called Tartarocyon. This name comes from Tartaro, a large, powerful, one-eyed giant from Basque mythology.
“The legend of Tartaro is also known in Bearn, the region where the lower jaw was found.
“Floreal Sole, a globally renowned specialist in carnivorous mammals, Jean-Francois Lesport and Antoine Heitz from the Natural History Museum Basel chose the name of the new genus.”
The fossilised jaw belongs to a group of predators that resembled “a cross between a bear and a large dog, known as ‘bear dogs’.”
The scientific name for these animals is Amphicyonidae. The scientists said in their statement: “They belong to a group of carnivores such as dogs, cats, bears, seals and badgers.
“These predators were a widespread 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 kilogrammes. The last European Amphicyonidae disappeared during the late Miocene 7.5 million years ago.”
The study was published in the academic journal PeerJ on Wednesday, 15th June, under the title ‘A new gigantic carnivore (Carnivora, Amphicyonidae) from the late middle Miocene of France’. It was authored by Floreal Sole, Jean-Francois Lesport, Antoine Heitz, and Bastien Mennecart.