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.