The ‘Ammitocyon kainos’ lived about 9 million years ago and is part of the amphithoids, popularly known as ‘bear-dogs’
The remains of the new species were found at the Batallones 3 site in Madrid between 2008 and 2011, but initially they were assigned to another animal.
The name of the new species, Ammitocyon kainos means ‘Ammit’s dog’, due to its resemblance to said Egyptian deity
Researchers from several Spanish centers have identified a new species for science, which inhabited the peninsula millions of years ago, in the Miocene. Is about a ‘bear-dog’ described from skull-dental remains of several specimens found in a Madrid site.
The remains of the new species, named Ammitocyon kainos, They were found at the Batallones 3 site in Madrid between 2008 and 2011, but were initially assigned to another genus (Thaumastocyon). Subsequent and detailed analyzes of their dentition have revealed that they really belong to a previously unknown species, as reported this Wednesday by the participating research centers.
Scientists from the National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN-CSIC), the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont (ICP), the University of Alcalá (UAH), the University of Zaragoza and the University Institute for Environmental Sciences Research have participated in the research. de Aragón (IUCA), and the results have been published in the ‘Journal of Systematic Palaeontology’.
The characteristics of the new ‘bear-dog’
Ammitocyon kainos is characterized by the length and robustness of its chin and muzzle, as well as the incisors and canines, which contrast with the absence of the first premolars and the last molars. In addition, it had highly developed carcasses with large cutting surfaces and relatively small chewing molars.
Those characteristics are considered as adaptations to ‘hypercarnivorism’, a condition that occurs when more than 70 percent of an animal’s diet is based on meat – they are not present in any current species of carnivore.
Tests performed on its bite show that different areas of the jaw served different functions. While the most anterior area served them to grab the prey and tear off large pieces of meat, making sudden lateral movements, the most posterior part was used almost like a guillotine, which would cut this meat into smaller pieces. “His mouth is like a Swiss Army knife”, has pointed out Juan Abella, ICP researcher and study co-author.
The combination of the characteristics of the chewing apparatus with those of its skeleton has not been observed before and reveals unique ecological adaptations, according to the researchers. The study authors have described that their front and rear legs were robust and strong, their hands and feet very short, and that their weight could exceed 230 kilos.
“We are in front of a very specialized carnivore”, Abella explained in a press release. It has specified that, due to its anatomical characteristics, it could not be an active hunter or too agile, like the current canids or felids, and that it should hunt by stalking or take advantage of the prey that other carnivores hunted.
A “unique” species
The Ammitocyon kainos lived about 9 million years ago and is the last member of the Thaumastocyoninae subfamily. This is included within the family of amphithoids, popularly known as ‘bear-dogs’, although in fact, according to the researchers, they are not closely related to either dogs or bears. This family has no representatives today, but in the past they were one of the most numerous and diverse groups of carnivores in the terrestrial ecosystems of Europe and North America.
“In Battalions 3 it coexisted with other large predators of more than 150 kilos, such as the Magericyon anceps, the saber-toothed tiger Machairodus aphanistus and the relative of the panda Indarctos arctoides, so the role in the ecosystem of each of them should to be sufficiently defined, to be able to support said species in the same area “, has explained Alberto Valenciano, paleontologist at the University of Zaragoza and co-author of the study.
The name of the new species, Ammitocyon kainos means ‘Ammit’s dog’. Ammit was an Egyptian deity with the head of a crocodile and the legs of a lion and hippopotamus, some anatomical features reminiscent of this animal. The suffix ‘cyon’ means ‘dog’ in Greek while ‘kainos’ means ‘new’, the researchers have explained.
The MNCN researcher Jorge Morales placeholder image has celebrated that after 30 years of excavations, the Cerro de los Batallones sites continue to give “pleasant surprises.” In addition, he stressed that the interest of these deposits lies not only in the quality and quantity of the fossils found, but also in the verification of new models of the formation of continental paleontological deposits and in the enormous potential for carrying out paleobiological and geological studies. .