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.
Species of otters
Species of otters
An Alaskan Sea Otter floats on its back in a fiord, looking directly at the camera.
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
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A family of otters are pictured during London Zoo's annual stocktake January 8, 2009. REUTERS/Andrew Winning (BRITAIN)
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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.