The Sciences

A New Species Of Prehistoric 'Bear-Dog' Discovered In The Pyrenees

A jaw bone fossil could hold the key in identifying an ancient 'bear-dog' species.

By Monica CullJun 15, 2022 6:30 PM
Bear Dog
(Credit:Denny Navarra)

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It's rare to discover fossils from the mid-Miocene era around the Pyrenees mountain range in southern France. But paleontologists believe they may have discovered a new species after finding a lower jaw bone.

The recently-discovered fauna is from a family of predators named the amphicyonidae the bear-dog that roamed the mountains over 12 million years ago, with several known species.

To determine the new species, Bastien Mennecart, a paleontologist from the Natural History Museum Basel and his international team have come together. While the finding is similar to the jaw bone of other amphicyonidae species, this specimen has a fourth lower premolar, a key indicator for species and genera. According to a press release, the jaw bone likely represents a new genus.

Jean-François Lesport and Antoine Heitz from the Natural History Museum Basel and Floréal Solé, a specialist in carnivorous mammals named the new specimen Tartarocyon, after a giant cyclops known in Basque mythology. This is also a well-known legend throughout the province of Béarn, where the jaw bone was unearthed from a 12.8 to 12 million-year-old marine deposit. 

Not only is this a discovery of a new species, but researchers can also use this jaw bone to further study the way the climate was shifting during the mid-Miocene and the way prehistoric animals made their way across the landscape. 

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