Ancient otter to have had the size of a wolf and the bite of a bear

Six million years ago, China was home to a giant species of otter that could give any present-day predator a run for its money. Scientists have concluded this type of otter to have had the size of a wolf and the bite of a bear.

The research was published in the journal Scientific Reports and offers details about the predator.  Named Siamogale melilutra, the otter weighed more than 50kg and was capable of crushing the bones of birds and rodents.

As opposed to their present-day counterparts, Siamogale melilutra had a much larger biting force thanks to their firm jawbones.

Assistant professor of pathology and anatomical sciences, Dr. Jack Tseng, states the team started comparing the jaws to normal otters thinking their ancestor was just a bigger version. The results were surprising.

„Our findings imply that Siamogale could crush much harder and larger prey than any living otter can,” Tseng says.

The research team ran simulations comparing the skulls of a dozen living otters to that of their ancestor in order to discover how much pressure their jaws exert. By going on the notion that smaller otters have sturdier jaws, scientists concluded the sheer weight and size of the Siamogale otter would have made the animal a sight to behold.

As to why these ancient otters were so powerful, a curator in the Vertebrate Paleontology Department of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, Dr. Xiaming Wang, may have an answer.The shallow swamps of South China, where the otter is thought to have lived, would have contained large quantities of clams. In turn, the animal would have had to adapt to breaking their shells by relying on their anatomy.

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Modern-day otters also like eating harder foods even if their jaws don’t allow them to do so. Tseng acknowledges the animal’s reliance on using rocks to break its food while swimming on its back. He claims that the primitive otter did not have tool-using capabilities as it had to rely on its predatorial nature.

Image Source: StaticFlickr

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