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New fossils shed light on the origins of lions, and tigers, and bears

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Posted January 7, 2014
New fossils shed light on the origins of lions, and tigers, and bears (oh my!)
This is a reconstruction of Dormaalcyon latouri. Credit: Art by Charlène Letenneur (MNHN) and Pascale Golinvaux (RBINS).
New fossils from Belgium have shed light on the origin of some of the most well-known, and well-loved, modern mammals. Cats and dogs, as well as other carnivorous mammals (like bears, seals, and weasels), taxonomically called ‘carnivoraformes’, trace their ancestry to primitive carnivorous mammals dating back to 55 million years ago (the beginning of the time period called the Eocene). A study, published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, discusses the origins of this group and describes new specimens of one of the earliest of these primitive taxa.

The species, dubbed Dormaalocyon latouri, had previously been found at the Belgian locality of Dormaal (thus the name of the genus). New specimens found by lead author Floréal Solé and his colleagues, allow for a better characterization of the animal, and its placement in the evolutionary history of carnivores. “Its description allows better understanding of the origination, variability and ecology of the earliest carnivoraforms”, says Solé.

The new specimens include over 250 teeth and ankle bones. More teeth allow for a description of the entire tooth row of Dormaalocyon, while previous finds only included two upper molars. The new finds even include the deciduous teeth (or ‘baby teeth’). The fact that these teeth are very primitive looking, and from a very early time, implies that Dormaalocyon is close to the origin of carnivoraforms, and that this origin may have been in Europe.

Read more at: Phys.org

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