Fossilised lower jaw of a previously unknown prehistoric BEAR DOG is unearthed in France
A bear dog hybrid that weighs the equivalent of 40 bowling balls is probably not what you would want to meet on a skiing holiday in France.
Fortunately, these fearsome carnivores went extinct about 7.5 million years ago, but a brand new species has only just been discovered by paleontologists.
In 1993, a fossilized bear dog’s lower jaw, or amphicyonide, was unearthed in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department of southwestern France.
Paleontologists at the Natural History Museum Basel found that the jawbone had a unique lower premolar, suggesting it belonged to a lineage of bear dogs never seen before.
The team named the species Tartarocyonwhich they say weighed about 50 stone (200 kg).
The Tartarocyon jawbone comes from 1,212 million-year-old marine deposits that were explored in the small French community of Sallespisse. Unlike other amphicyonidae specimens, it has a unique fourth lower premolar that is important for determining species and genera.
A fossilized mandible of a bear dog, or amphicyonide, (depicted in occlusal, lingual, and labial views) was unearthed in 1993 in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department of France. Scale bar is 5 cm
Comparison of the mandible and fourth lower premolar for various European amphycionids or bear dogs. The red circle indicates the premolar position. The scale bar is 5 cm in front of the mandibles but the premolars are not to scale. Top left is the lower jaw of the Tartarocyon
WHAT ARE BEAR DOGS?
The family Amphicyonidae, popularly known as ‘bear dogs’, is an extinct family of terrestrial carnivores
They first appeared in North America in the mid-Eocene, about 45 million years ago
Members of the family ranged from as small as 11 lb (5 kg) to as large as 1704 lb (773 kg) and evolved from wolf-like to bear-like body shapes
They spread to Europe, Asia and Africa over a period of 22 million years, but had largely disappeared by the late Miocene, eight million years ago.
They were among the first carnivores to develop a large body size
Bear dog fossils have been found in North America and Europe
The first time people encountered an amphicyonid was then a amphicyon fossil was discovered in the early 19th century.
The amphicyon genus was mentioned by Édouard Lartet in 1836 as ‘ambiguous dog’, but along with other amphicyonidesit has since been nicknamed “bear dog.”
Fossils of this dog have since been found in Nebraska in North America and in France and Spain in Europe.
Other genera have also been discovered, leading to the Amphicyonidae family is classified in 1886.
Members of the family range from as small as 11 lb (5 kg) to as large as 1,704 lb (773 kg) and evolved from wolf-like to bear-like body shapes.
Early amphicyonides, such as daphoenodonwalked on their toes while many of the later and larger species walked on the soles of their feet.
They were obligate carnivores, meaning they ate only meat because they can’t digest plant matter well, and first appeared in North America about 45 million years ago.
Over the next 22 million years, they spread to a widespread fauna in Europe, Asia and Africa, but had largely disappeared by the late Miocene, eight million years ago.
It is thought that they competed with other types of dogs that developed similar body sizes and cranial and dental adaptations leading to their extinction.
Geographical location of the place Sallespisse where the jawbone was found. The light gray area represents the maximum expansion of the sea during the Serravallian period
Location of the Tartarocyon jawbone in the sediment of the Sallespisse rock where it was discovered. It was found in deposits of Blue Faluns of Orthez
Paleontologist Bastien Mennecart described the fossilized jaw of the new Tartarocyon in a newspaper published today in pearJ†
The jawbone comes from 12.8 to 12 million-year-old marine deposits that were explored in the small French community of Sallespisse.
Unlike other amphicyonidae specimens, it has a unique fourth lower premolar that is important for determining species and genera.
Mennecart and co-authors Floréal Solé, Jean-François Lesport and Antoine Heitz named the species after Tartaro, a powerful one-eyed giant of Basque mythology.
The legend of Tartaro is also known in Béarn, the region where the lower jaw was found.
THE LEGEND OF TARTAROO
Tartaro is a one-eyed giant of Basque mythology, similar to the Greek cyclops
It is said that he lives in caves in the mountains and captures young people to eat them
Legend has it that two brothers took shelter in a cave after a storm broke out while they were hunting
It was Tartaro’s cave, and he soon appeared with his flock of sheep, looked at the brothers and said: ‘one for today and the other for tomorrow’
He cooked and ate the eldest brother and then went to sleep
While he was sleeping, the younger brother stole Tartaro’s ring and then stuck the spit in his only eye, blinding him.
Tartaro began to look for the boy among his sheep, but he put on a sheepskin and fled with his ring
Unfortunately, the ring began to shout, “Here I am, here I am!”, warning Tartaro where he was.
Tartaro got out of his cave and started running after the boy, who tried to take the ring
He found that the ring was stuck, so when he got to the edge of a cliff, he cut off his finger and threw it off the cliff.
Tartaro, following the screams of the ring, fell from the cliff
The new species is named after Tartaro, a one-eyed giant from Basque mythology
reconstruction of Tartarocyon feed on a stranded dolphin along the Serravallian sea
Discoveries of fossilized terrestrial vertebrates that lived on the northern edge of the Pyrenees 13 to 11 million years ago are very rare.
The researchers told the national it was likely that the bear dogs would have been opportunistic, solitary animals, similar to bears today, rather than running in packs like dogs.
They would also have hunted large prey and patrolled the coastline looking for carrion such as dolphins
The discovery of the mandible provides an opportunity to examine the development of European bear dogs against the background of known environmental events at this time.
This could help determine the cause of their extinctions, be it competition from other species or climate change.
Crocodile-headed dinosaur unearthed on Isle of Wight ‘perhaps largest land predator to roam Europe’: two-legged spinosaurus was 32 feet long — same as a London bus
The remains of what may be the largest predatory dinosaur ever found in Europe have been unearthed on the Isle of Wight.
Paleontologists say the huge crocodile-faced dinosaur — which at 10 meters in length is almost as big as a London bus — lived 125 million years ago and would have weighed several tons.
The “giant killer” was a member of the spinosaurids, the first dinosaurs known to swim, and thus may have been able to hunt both in water and on land.
It would have lived at the beginning of a period of rising sea levels, stalking lagoon waters and sandbars in search of food.
Several prehistoric bones belonging to the ‘White Rock spinosaurid’ – so named because of the geological layer in which the remains were found, have been discovered on the island off the south coast of England.
They include huge pelvic and tail vertebrae and have since been analyzed by scientists at the University of Southampton.
Read more here
The remains of what may be the largest predatory dinosaur ever found in Europe have been unearthed on the Isle of Wight. ‘White Rock spinosaurid’ is depicted in an artist’s impression