It’s hard to imagine an otter the size of a wolf, given the small and cute creatures they are today. However, an ancient species from the same family easily outdid the world’s biggest otters. The species in question was called Siamogale melilutra, and lived about 6 million years ago.
The otter was wolf-sized
This giant otter was significantly bigger than the biggest otters that live today, as it was about the size of a wolf. It lived in the wet areas present in southwestern China, and was one of the top predators which lived there. Today, the biggest otters weigh about 100 pounds at most. This wolf-sized animal reached an average weight of 110 pounds.
In January this year, researchers discovered the fossils of the creature, and performed a series of scans on them. This is how they managed to find out how big and heavy the animal was. Also, the scans allowed them to perform a cranium reconstruction as well.
At first, researchers thought this was only a larger version of a regular otter, and underestimated its ability to prey on large animals. However, its cranium and jaws were of a more impressive size, and they revealed the animal was among the top predators in its habitat, unlike sea otters of today.
The giant otter had incredibly powerful jaws which cold crush bones
They could calculate the force of its bite, as well as the strain and pressure it would put on prey. For its size, the giant otter exhibited an unusually overwhelming force, which could easily be used to crush bones. Researchers couldn’t tell for sure what its diet consisted of, but they most probably fed on small animals, birds, or mollusks.
The fossils were discovered in Shuitangba, an area full of lakes and swamps surrounded by evergreen forests. Among the animals which are nowadays found in the region, there are frogs, turtles, crab, or mollusks, and all of them could have been part of the otter’s diet.
In a study published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers explored the mystery of the otter’s powerful jaws. They compared their anatomy with that belonging to other otter species, and concluded that they became so powerful as a response to the fauna in the area, consisting of many clam species with hard shells.
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons