Scientists are surprised once again by the valuable information stored in museums. Ancient fossils at a Chicago museum reveal the existence of a new bear dog species. The animal is believed to have lived millions of years ago. The information got to researchers now, but the fossil was discovered no less than thirty years ago.
The new bear dog species evolved from rather humble individuals. Researchers explain that the first specimens emerged approximately forty million years ago and they were the size of a modern day Chihuahua. However, the species evolved in time and grew to get its name associated with current fierce predators, such as bears.
However, the specialists highlight the fact that the denomination doesn’t have much to do with dogs and bears. Of course, the ancient animals and the modern-day specimen share features related to posture and body shape, as the researchers explain. However, the new bear dog species is not the ancestor of neither dogs nor bears.
The scientific name of the species is amphicyonids. Researchers know that during thousands of years of evolution, bear dogs evolved in terms of sizes. Final stages of evolution included specimens weighing as much as a modern day bear. However, all evolution groups shared one fundamental feature, namely that they were carnivores.
Some fossils at the Chicago museum have recently been investigated by specialists. One of them is the skull of a very young individual, most likely belonging to the early stages of evolution of the species. The fossil is only eight centimeters long. Judging by this size, scientists believed that the animal must have weighed less than three kilograms.
There was another skull, bigger than the previous. Specialists found that it belonged to a larger individual. They compare its size to that of a fully grown cat.
Both skulls display teeth which account for the meat-based diet of the animals. However, the ancient fossils were in bad condition. This is one of the reasons why previous researchers failed in identifying them correctly. Nevertheless, the recent analyses state that the small fossil could be older than thirty-eight million years.
Researchers used modern technology for their new study. This is how they could figure out that they were dealing with a new bear dog species. They also found out that the animals were native to the Northern parts of America. Details of the research were published in Royal Society Open Science.
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