An otter as big as a lion lived in Ethiopia with the Australopithecines

Modern otters are carnivorous mammals which live mainly in water. They are found in rivers, streams, rapids, torrents and lakes. However, recently, paleontologists discovered a new species of extinct giant otter for 3 million years. They were able to reconstruct the story of this animal from fossilized teeth and bones found in the Lower Omo Valley of Ethiopia. Several species of giant otters populated Eurasia and Africa during this time.

A giant otter eating pantanal fish in brazil.

Researchers were amazed to find that this newly described species is too bigger than a lion. The fossilized remains, although fragmentary, suggested that she weighed about 200 kgmaking it the largest otter ever described.

Belonging to the extinct genus Enhydriodon, this giant otter was identified from its teeth and femur.

A massive giant otter much larger than our ancestors

If the European otter measures only about thirty centimeters, this animal nicknamed Enhydriodon omoensis weighed 200 kg and was as massive as a lion. He rubbed shoulders with our Australopithecus ancestors who weighed only 30 to 40 kg. The australopithecines were therefore therefore much smaller what’Enhydriodon omoensis.

Fossilized remains and representative diagram of what would be Enhydriodon omoensis.

We can imagine that they have lived side by side and appear to have competed for food. According to the study published in the journal Comptes Rendus Palevol, these otters Enhydriodon have disappeared from Africa around the Plio-Pleistocene transition, about 2.5 million years ago.

L’Enhydriodon did not live in water

the Doctor Kevin Unoa geochemist who works at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, was surprised at how much this newly identified species is different of those discovered so far. Modern otters are semi-aquatic and feed mainly on molluscs, turtles, crocodiles or catfish.

Oxygen and carbon analysis composing the dental enamel of theEnhydriodon omoensis made it clear that she did not live in water. Also, his diet is similar to that of land mammals such as big cats and hyenas.

The disappearance of this large mammal would be directly linked to the many geological, climatic and biotic changes that occurred in the East African Rift during this period.


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