Researchers identify previously unknown species of wolf-sized otter 

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon

Otters have been roaming the planet for quite some time, and researchers from China, France and the U.S. recently discovered yet another ancient relative of the adorable, hand-holding creatures we know and love today.

Based on an analysis of fossils found in southwestern China's Yunnan Province, the team determined that members of the long-extinct species, Siamogale melilutra, lived about 6.24 million years ago, and grew to be as big as wolves.

9 PHOTOS
Species of otters
See Gallery
Species of otters
An Alaskan Sea Otter floats on its back in a fiord, looking directly at the camera.
RooM RF
An otter swims in a channel at the 30 km (19 miles) exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in the abandoned village of Pogonnoe, Belarus, March 13, 2016. REUTERS/Vasily Fedosenko
An Asian short-clawed otter eats a fish in its enclosure at Chester Zoo in Chester, northern England, January 5, 2012. The smallest of the world's otter species are part of a breeding programme at the zoo as they are classed as being vulnerable in the wild. REUTERS/Phil Noble (BRITAIN - Tags: ANIMALS ENVIRONMENT SOCIETY)
Oriental Small - Clawed Otters relax in their enclosure on a hot and sunny day at the Berlin Zoo May 30 , 2011. REUTERS/Tobias Schwarz (GERMANY - Tags: ANIMALS IMAGES OF THE DAY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
Asian small-clawed otters play in their enclosure at the National Zoo in Washington March 3, 2007. The otters' natural habitats are in parts of China, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia. REUTERS/Jim Bourg (UNITED STATES)
A baby Russian sea otter (top) is carried by its mother on the surface of a fish tank during a press preview at the Sunshine International Aquarium in Tokyo June 13, 2007. The baby sea otter was born on June 2, 2007, from the mating of mother Russian sea otter Meel and father Russian sea otter Roochi, and is the first breeding case of a Russian sea otter in Japan, aquarium officials said. REUTERS/Issei Kato (JAPAN)
A family of otters are pictured during London Zoo's annual stocktake January 8, 2009. REUTERS/Andrew Winning (BRITAIN)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The making of that determination was greatly aided by the unprecedented completeness of the remains.

While previous species-related finds have been limited to random teeth, this one, according to a release about the study, included a, "cranium, mandible, dentition and various skeletal elements," which yielded, "information about the taxonomy, evolutionary history, and functional morphology of this new species."

In addition to being particularly large, the researchers describe the species as having big, rounded teeth and a very powerful jaw, attributes that would have been immensely helpful in eating shellfish and mollusks, two food sources that were plentiful at the time.

The researchers look forward to further study, hoping to reveal more about the early otter's relationships and interactions with its environment.

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners