The remains of a carnivorous mammal larger than a polar bear discovered in a… museum
The remains of a huge, carnivorous mammal that roamed what is now Kenya 22 million years ago have been rediscovered in a drawer at the National Museum of Kenya. The beast was larger than a polar bear and, according to the publication‘s lead author, may have looked like a monster from the novel J. R. R. Tolkien.
Fossils 22 million years old were discovered in Kenya decades ago, when scientists dug through the region looking for evidence of theow on the existence of ancient great apes. The specimens were placed in a drawer at the National Museum of Kenya and did not receive much attention, dopoki researchers from Ohio University – Dr. Nancy Stevens and Dr. Matthew Borths – have not rediscovered them.
The powerful carnivore was named Simbakubwa kutokaafrika, which means in Swahili „Africa’s great lion”. However, the animal was much larger than wspolion. Researchers have named the beast „big lion” due to the fact that in oplayed the role of a lion in the early ecosystem, meaning it was probably at the top of the food chain.
Results of analysis of ancient remainsow appeared in the pages of the journal „Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology”.
– When we opened a drawer in the museum, a row of giant teeth appeared to our eyesow, whichore clearly belonged to a carnivore unknown to science – said Borths, a majorowny author of publications.
Despite being called a lion, this mammal was not closely related to big cats or other living coocarnivores at the time. Instead, the creature belonged to an extinct group of mammalsoIn called hienodonts. Hienodonts were the first carnivorous mammals in Africa. For about 45 millionoyears after the extinction of the dinosaurow were apex predators on the continent.
Simbakubwa kutokaafrika was larger than a polar bear, the largest land predator alive today. Weighed up to 1,500 kilogramsow, measured 2.4 meters from snout to rump, and reached a height of about 1.5 meters. Its skull was the size of a rhinoceros skull. The animal had very sharp and strong teeth. Scientists believe its menu included ancestral hippopotamusow or elephants.
– During my lunch break, I decided to check some drawers to learn more about the predators of the last ice age, and there I found a huge jaw. Based on the tooth structureow I knew it was a hienodont, but I had no idea that this specimen existed – mentioned Borths.
The jaw was so large that it didn’t fit in a cabinet with the remains of other hyenodontsow. In addition to the jaw, the museum’s collection also included skull bones and part of a skeleton. Wanting to learn more, Borths contacted Nancy Stevens, whoora studied fossils from Kenya, where the remains of S. kutokaafriki.
– The specimen is very well preserved. Teeth are still quite sharp. We also have bones thatore moTie us how the beast was able to move. With this data, scientists can better interpret fragmentary material from other speciesow – admitted Borths.
While wspohe modern carnivores have one row of teethoIn the back, whichore are adapted to chew meat, hienodonts had three sets of teethow to cut meat. – All those extra teeth meant that these animals had a relatively long jaw. Their heads looked a little too large in porown relation to the rest of the body. I imagine they looked a bit like the lips from the „Lord of the Rings” – pointed out Borths.
Species name – kutokaafrika – means in Swahili „native to Africa”. The specimen is the oldest of the giant hienodontsoin, suggesting that this line of giant predatorsow probably originated on the African continent and moved over time to the poNorth. – When relatives of catsow and psow were heading south, relatives of the S. kutokaafrika were going polnoc. It’s a fascinating time in biological history. The lines, whichore they never met, they are beginning to appear together in the fossil record – explained Borths.
Eventually, hienodonts became extinct during the change of global ecosystemsoin about 18-15 millionow years ago. – We don’t know exactly what led to the extinction of hienodontsoin, but ecosystems were changing rapidly as the global climate became drier. Giant relatives S. kutokaafrika were among the last hienodontsow on the planet,” noted Borths.
– This is a key fossil demonstrating the importance of museum collections for understanding evolutionary history, acknowledged Stevens, co-oauthor of the study. – Simbakubwa is a window into a bygone era. As the ecosystem shiftsow disappeared a key predator, foreshadowing the Cenozoic faunal transitions, ktore eventually led to the evolution of the cooof modern African fauna,” she said.