Tech UPTechnologyThey discover in the Pyrenees a new species of...

They discover in the Pyrenees a new species of prehistoric 'bear dog'


Weighing 200 kilos and looking like a hybrid of a bear and a dog, this fearsome carnivore became extinct about 7.5 million years ago and paleontologists, thanks to the discovery of a fossilized lower jaw unearthed in the department of Pyrénées-Atlantiques, in southwestern France, in 1993, have been able to describe what is a species unknown to science.


In honor of Basque mythology

The team named the species Tartarocyon, which comes from Tartarus , a huge Cyclops and powerful creature from Basque mythology, exposing in their study published in the journal PeerJ that it belonged to a genus of bear dog never seen before. The legend of Tartarus is also known in Béarn, the region where the lower jaw was found.

The jaw comes from marine deposits 12.8 to 12 million years old that were examined in the small community of Sallespisse in southwestern France and upon seeing it, the jaw was conspicuous for its teeth, experts say.

Unlike the familiar specimens of the amphicyonidae , this animal has a single lower fourth premolar. The genus Amphicyon was named in 1836 by Édouard Lartet meaning ‘ambiguous dog’, along with other amphicyonids, but has since been nicknamed ‘bear dog’.

Fossils of this strange dog have been found since the early 19th century in Nebraska in North America and in France and Spain in Europe. Other genera have also been discovered, leading to the categorization of the family Amphicyonidae in 1886.

All of them were carnivores , that is, they ate exclusively meat as they could not digest plant matter, they walked on their toes, while many of the later and larger species walked on plants, and they first appeared in North America about 45 million years ago. They then spread to become the generalized fauna of Asia, Africa, and Europe.

a rare find

The discoveries of fossilized terrestrial vertebrates that lived in the extreme north of the Pyrenees between 13 and 11 million years ago are very scarce. The discovery and description of the lower jaw is even more significant.

How did they disappear?

It is believed that they entered into competition with other dog species that developed similar body sizes and cranial and dental adaptations that led to their extinction. They became extinct around the end of the Miocene, eight million years ago.

Reference: Floréal Solé, Jean-François Lesport, Antoine Heitz, Bastien Mennecart. A new gigantic carnivore (Carnivora, Amphicyonidae) from the late middle Miocene of France. PeerJ, 2022; 10: e13457 DOI: 10.7717 / peerj.13457

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