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Researchers in Germany discover a new species of otter

A new species of otter discovered in Germany
The decrease jaw of the brand new otter species, Vishnuonyx neptuni, with an in depth view of its enamel in a 3D mannequin taken by means of a micro-CT scanner. Credit score: Nikos Kargopoulos.

Researchers from the Universities of Tübingen and Zaragoza have found a beforehand unknown species of otter from 11.4-million-year-old strata on the Hammerschmiede fossil web site.

The excavation site within the Allgäu area of Germany grew to become world-renowned in 2019 for discoveries of the bipedal ape Danuvius guggenmosi. The new species, revealed at the moment within the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, was named Vishnuonyx neptuni, that means Neptune’s Vishnu otter. The Vishnu otter genus was beforehand identified solely from Asia and Africa.

The analysis staff is conducting excavations on the Hammerschmiede below the route of Professor Madelaine Böhme from the Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment on the College of Tübingen. It has already recovered greater than 130 totally different species of extinct vertebrates from river deposits attributed to the Historical Guenz. Many of those species are tailored to life in and round water. Nevertheless, the detection of a Vishnu otter in Bavaria was surprising, since representatives of this genus had beforehand solely been identified from areas outdoors Europe.

Dispersal of the Vishnu otters

One in six species of at the moment’s predatory mammals lives aquatically, both within the oceans, reminiscent of seals, or in freshwater, reminiscent of otters. The evolutionary history of the 13 otter species that happen at the moment continues to be comparatively unexplored. Vishnu otters (Vishnuonyx) are mid-sized predators, with a weight of 10 to fifteen kilograms, that have been first found in sediments within the foothills of the Himalayas. They lived 14 to 12.5 million years in the past within the main rivers of Southern Asia.

A new species of otter discovered in Germany
The dispersal of the Vishnuonyx otters from the Indian subcontinent to Africa and Europe about 13 million years in the past. The star (HAM 4) reveals the place of the Hammerschmiede fossil web site. Credit score: Nikos Kargopoulos.

Current finds confirmed that Vishnu otters reached East Africa about 12 million years in the past. The invention within the now 11.4-million-year-old layers of the Hammerschmiede is the primary proof that in addition they occurred in Europe—presumably spreading from India all through the complete Previous World. Like all otters, the Vishnu otter will depend on water; it can’t journey lengthy distances over land. Its monumental dispersal of greater than 6,000 kilometers throughout three continents was made doable by the geographic state of affairs 12 million years in the past: Newly fashioned mountain ranges from the Alps within the west to the Iranian Elbrus Mountains within the east separated a big ocean basin from the Tethys Ocean, the forerunner of the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean.

This created the Paratethys, an enormous Eurasian physique of water that prolonged from Vienna to past at the moment’s Aral Sea in Kazakhstan. Twelve million years in the past, it had solely a slim connection to the Indian Ocean, the so-called Araks Strait within the space of modern-day Armenia. The researchers assume that Neptune’s Vishnu otter adopted this connection to the west and reached southern Germany, the Historical Guenz, and the Hammerschmiede by way of the rising delta of the Historical Danube to the west of what’s now town of Vienna.

The fish predator’s enamel

On the just lately based Middle for Visualization, Digitization, and Replication within the Division of Geosciences on the College of Tübingen, researchers used computer-tomographic strategies to visualise the best particulars within the fossils’ tooth construction. This system allowed the exact statement of very small buildings within the otter’s dentition. The pointed cusps, reducing blades, and restricted grinding areas recommend a weight loss plan based mostly totally on fish. Ecologically, Neptune’s Vishnu otter is thus extra just like the Eurasian otter than to the Pacific sea otter or the African and Asian clawless otters—each teams desire crustaceans or shellfish over fish of their weight loss plan.


Are otters threatening amphibian populations?


Extra info:
New early Late Miocene species of Vishnuonyx (Carnivora, Lutrinae) from the hominid locality of Hammerschmiede, Bavaria, Germany, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2021.1948858

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Researchers in Germany uncover a brand new species of otter (2021, September 16)
retrieved 17 September 2021
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