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Megacarnivore found in drawer


The cat came back. so to speak. Actually, extinct Simbakubwa kutokaafrika was not a cat but a hyaenodont, larger than a polar bear, with three rows of shearing teeth. Found between 1978 and 1981, the jawbone had to be stored on special shelving due to its size:

Simbakubwa and other giant hyaenodonts, such as Megistotherium, were a very different form of carnivore from their modern brethren. Whereas modern carnivores have a single row of back teeth that are arranged to chew meat, hyaenodonts had three sets of meat-slicing teeth. “All those extra blades gave them a relatively long jaw that made their heads look a little too big for their bodies,” Borths says. “I imagine them looking a bit like the wargs from Lord of the Rings.” Riley Black, “Fearsome ancient carnivore discovered after fossil lingered for decades in museum drawer” at Nature

Paper. (public access)


It’s suggested that climate change led to hyaenodont’s extinction by reducing the numbers of giant prey animals:

As in any ecosystem, apex predators had a crucial role in the era known to paleontologists as the Oligocene, a period of global transition between the world of the dinosaurs, which had been destroyed an annihilation event, and the modern ecosystems known today. On the African continent, the Simbakubwa would prevent any herbivore species, including the earliest primates, from dominating the landscape.

While hyaenodonts lived in various environments across the globe, they went extinct between 15 to 18 millions ago. Scientists are still unsure of the precise reasons, but their extinction came at a further moment of change, when their forests began a transformation into grasslands. David Grossman, “Scientists Discover Gigantic Prehistoric Cat in a Neglected Museum Drawer” at Popular Mechanics

See also: Gunter Bechly: Ediacaran fossil paper is junk science.

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