Researchers identify previously unknown species of wolf-sized otter

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.

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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.

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