Ancient Wolf-Size Otter Had Bizarrely Strong Bite
Studies of the prehistoric swamp creature hint at a trade-off in sea otters between powerful jaws and tool use.
Six million years ago, a hundred-pound otter was on the prowl somewhere in the swampy wetlands of what’s now southwestern China.
Unlike today’s playful sea otters, which use stones to smash open urchins off the Pacific coasts of North America and Asia, this ancient creature could have chomped right through mollusk shells with its powerful jaws.
Meet Siamogale melilutra, a prehistoric otter ancestor that was unearthed in China’s Yunnan Province and first described earlier this year.
In a new study, researchers examined the animal’s mandible, or jawbone, and determined that it was probably an apex predator of the late Miocene, with strong jaws and teeth made for crushing that would have allowed it to consume a wide range of prey.