Ancient otter fossils show it was the size of a LION: Huge femurs and teeth show the creature weighed 440 pounds more than 2.5 million years ago when it roamed Ethiopia
- Fossils of the largest otter to ever walk the earth have been found in Ethiopia
- A femur more than a foot long and teeth over two inches wide were found
- Experts say the otter weighed 400 pounds, the size of a modern day lion
Remains of an ancient otter found in Ethiopia show the long-extinct creature was the size of a modern lion when it lived more than 2.5 million years ago.
The researchers uncovered teeth measuring more than an inch and a giant 12-foot femur that helped them identify the new species, which weighed 440 pounds — today’s otter weighs up to 13 pounds.
The existence of giant otters is well known, but the team, led by France’s Camille Grohé of the University of Poitiers, believes the latest discovery is the largest otter to ever walk the earth.
Due to its enormous size, the new species is said to have fed on aquatic and terrestrial prey and to have coexisted with early hominins in the same region.
However, the team speculates that the giant otter met its demise when the humid climate became drier, along with an invasion of hominins into their natural habitats.
The researchers uncovered teeth and giant femurs, which allowed them to identify the new species weighing 440 pounds (440 pounds) — much larger than today’s animals, which weigh just up to 13 pounds
Study co-author Kevin Uno, a geochemist at Columbia Climate School’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said in a statement, “The strange thing about it, besides its massive size, is that [isotopes] in its teeth suggest it was not aquatic, like all modern otters.
“We found that they are terrestrial animals that are also distinct from modern otters.”
Fossils of the ancient otter were discovered in the lower Omo Valley of southwestern Ethiopia, which researchers used to estimate the size of the now-extinct otter.
Several giant otters are known to have populated Eurasia and Africa around 6 million to 2 million years ago, with the genus Enhydriodon being the best known.
The massive femur helped the team estimate the otter’s body size. They also say that he is the largest otter that has ever walked the earth
This is because its remains, although fragmentary, have been found in many places, particularly in East Africa.
However, the newly described species is named Enhydriodon omoensis after the lower Omo Valley of southwestern Ethiopia, where it was discovered.
“The Lower Omo Valley in south-western Ethiopia lies north of Lake Turkana. It represents the northern part of the Great Turkana Depression and exposes Plio-Pleistocene fluvio-lakustrine sediments on the western side of the Omo River, deposited mainly as the Usno and Shungura formations,” the team shared in the in Comptes Rendus Palevol published study with .
“The Shungura Formation is exceptional in Africa as it preserves a very continuous, well dated and rich paleontological and archaeological record from about 3.6 Ma [million] up to 1.05 Ma [million].’
Its large teething ring enabled it to feed on land animals, whereas today they eat shellfish
In 2017, a separate team discovered the remains of another giant otter — this one was the size of a wolf when it lived six million years ago.
Known as Siamogale Melilutra, it weighed around 110 pounds and had an unusually powerful bite that would have allowed it to crush conch shells or the bones of birds and small mammals.
University of Buffalo researchers examined the fossilized skull of the prehistoric otter.
The giant otter may have been a dominant predator where it lived in Shuitangba, southern China.
Scans showed a combination of otter-like and badger-like skull and tooth features.
For this reason, the species was given the name “Melilutra”, derived from the Latin meles for badger and lutra for otter.