A new analysis of a jaw fossil has revealed that a species of saber-toothed predator lived on Earth millions of years before the first saber-toothed tiger. The researchers named the new predatory species Diegoaelurus vanvalkenburghae and classified them as machaeroidins, a group of carnivorous mammals from the Eocene more than 40 million years ago.
“We know very little about machaeroidins, so each new discovery greatly expands our picture of them,” said Dr. Shawn Zack of the University of Arizona School of Medicine, co-author of a research paper published Tuesday in PeerJ. .
The fossil was originally discovered in 1988 by a 12-year-old boy in Oceanside, California, near San Diego. Since then, the jawbone has been preserved in the San Diego Museum of Natural History’s vast fossil collection. The researchers used 3D modeling technology to confirm that the fossil was a new species of machaeroidin that originated in the California region millions of years ago.
“This relatively complete and well-preserved Diegoaelurus fossil is particularly useful because the teeth allow us to infer diet and understand how macaeroidins are related,” Zack said.
Macaeroidins are the oldest known saber-toothed carnivorous mammals. They are long gone and scientists have very little information about them. There are only four or five known species of machaeroidins, and each is represented by only a few specimens. Maqueroids are an early example of the hypercarnivore, an animal whose diet is more than 70% meat.
Today hypercarnivores are widespread; Polar bears and tigers are two well-known species. And if you have a cat as a pet, there is a hypercarnivore that lives with you in your house. If you’d like a closer look at the fossilized jawbone, The Nat has a 3D model of the specimen. You can check here.