In a new jaw-breaking discovery, an international team of paleontologists has discovered a new species of predator that once lived in Europe. All thanks to a fossilized lower jaw.
This new species belongs to a group of carnivores known as “bear dogs”, named because (like the name suggests) they resembled a cross between a large dog and a bear. To be more scientific, they belong to the family “Amphicyonidae”.
The discovery has now been published in PeerJ Life and Environment.
“Bear-dogs” were a group of carnivores that were found in Europe during the Miocene era (23 to 5.3 million years ago). The last of the massive beasts became extinct around 7.5 million years ago and weighed up to 320 kilograms (705 pounds).
During the early and middle Miocene era, the Southwestern part of France was flooded several times, depositing many fossils in the area, including the rare find of a fossilized lower jaw of an amphicyonid species (described in this research). These deposits were examined in the small community of Sallespisse, on the northern edge of the Pyrenees in south-western France.
The jawbone had a unique fourth lower premolar, indicating it probably represents a new genus and species. This tooth is important in determining species and genera, as it is morphologically different from other amphicyonid species.
This new genus has been named Tartarocyon cazanavei, which comes from a one-eyed giant in Basque mythology – Tartaro. This beast was extremely strong and lived in caves in the mountains, where he would catch young people for food, he was also said to have lived in the location where the fossil was first described. Meanwhile, -cyon was chosen as it is the Greek for dog.
It is estimated that the Tartarocyon weighed around a whopping 200 kilograms (441 pounds), the same weight as a one-piece Schumann black upright piano. Definitely not something that you would want galloping towards you at any speed.
It is always difficult to be certain of any new genus, especially with only one fossil found, so the scientists are hopeful that any future fossil discoveries may confirm their findings.