…Scientists have discovered a long-extinct species of fossils in Ethiopia that is the size of a modern lion. Several international excavation teams discovered the fossils over the years. It was recently described in the French scientific journal Comptes Rendus Palevol, led by Camille Grohé of the University of Poitiers. The study described the animal’s estimated body mass, the year they lived, and characteristics based on the animals’ teeth and femurs discovered in the excavation.
Scientists have named it Enhydriodon omoensis after the Lower Omo Valley in southwestern Ethiopia, where it was discovered. Using carbon isotopes in teeth, they were able to understand what kind of creatures they consumed. Also, the relative values of stable oxygen isotopes indicated what kind of habitat they occupied. Otters have traditionally been considered semi-aquatic beings, common in the African freshwater environment. Currently, otters range in weight from 2 to 6 kg for Asian small-clawed otters, to 31 to 45 kg for North Pacific sea otters, and up to about 31 kg for South American giant otters. Among these, the extinct genus Enhydriodon was able to be studied because its remains, though fragmentary, have been discovered in a variety of locations, particularly in eastern Africa.
The species is the largest otter-like animal ever described, which is estimated to have lived around 3.5 million to 2.5 million years ago and weighed an estimated 200 kilograms (440 pounds). Scientists believe it would have possibly competed for food with our much smaller ancestors when they lived alongside them. The newly discovered species is different from modern otters in that it hunts prey that consumes terrestrial plants, from tropical grasses to vegetation from trees. The giant Omo otter has a character similar to terrestrial mammals, particularly big cats and hyenas from Omo fossil deposits. The author of the published scientific journal aims to sample African otter fossils and understand their fit in the food chain system and what caused the extinction about 2 million years ago.