A wolf-sized giant otter which once roamed the ancient swamps of Earth had a very strong bite. Yes, according to a recent study, the extinct giant otter that once inhabited China was a top predator and could chew like a bear. The otter weighed around 110 pounds and probably preyed on birds and rodents. The otter, named as Siamogale melilutra lived around 6 million years ago and was the size of a wolf.
The ancient species was almost twice as large as present-day utters and when the researchers analyzed its jaws, they found out that it packed a powerful bite. This strong and powerful bite enabled it to crunch through solid hard shells and bigger preys. The researchers compared the CT scan and computer simulation models of both the extinct as well as modern-day otters. For the research, scientists scanned the skulls 10 of 13 living otters and also the fossilized otter and created a 3-D model to show how the jaw bones bend under biting forces.
They found out that the ancient otter’s jaws were probably six times stronger than the present day otters. The strong jaws along with a massive body made the Siamogale otters one of the most top rated predators in that area. Although the fossils studied were incomplete, they were well preserved in a swamp or lake in the middle of dense woodland.
Assistant professor of pathology and anatomical sciences Dr. Jack Tseng at the University at Buffalo said that they started the study with the idea that the fossilized otter was just a larger version of a sea otter or an African clawless otter in terms of chewing ability and it would just be able to eat much larger things. But what they got was something surprising. From the computer simulation models, the researchers found out that the extinct otter had much stronger and firmer jaws than expected. The present-day otters eat mainly fish and shellfish. But their ancient counterparts had a powerful bite and could crush mollusk shells and bones.
The ancient otter was a top predator than the current living species of otter, and as their preys were big and strong, they developed stronger jaws. The scientists wrote in a report that the abundance of aquatic and near-water environments in that region might have allowed aquatic carnivorans such as Siamogale to become the dominant predators of their ecological communities.