A new genus and species of saber-toothed mammalian carnivore has been identified from a fossil found in California, the United States.
Pangurban egiae lived in what is now California between 37 and 40 million years ago (Eocene period).
The species belonged to Nimravidae, an extinct family of saber-toothed mammalian carnivores, sometimes known as false saber-toothed cats.
“Saber-toothed nimravids were early members of Carnivoramorpha, a group of mammals in which saber-like canines have evolved twice,” said Dr. Susumu Tomiya, a vertebrate paleontologist at Kyoto University, the University of California Museum of Paleontology and the Field Museum of Natural History, and colleagues.
“By roughly 40 million years ago, saber-like canines evolved in an ancestral nimravid.”
“By about 16 million years ago, saber-like canines also evolved in an ancestor of a cat subfamily called Machairodontinae, which would give rise to the genus Smilodon about 2.5 million years ago.”
“So the nimravids were the original saber-toothed carnivores among Carnivoramorpha.”
A partial jaw with two upper premolars of Pangurban egiae was recovered from the upper middle Eocene portion of the Pomerado Conglomerate of San Diego County, California.
“Our specimen has serrated slicing teeth which have important similarities to later predators,” said Dr. Ashley Poust, a paleontologist at the San Diego Natural History Museum and the University of California Museum of Paleontology.
“The teeth tell us that close relatives of today’s living carnivores spread around the world earlier than we believed, and they diversified quickly when they reached new continents like North America.”
The first nimravids possibly originated in Asia, and after migrating across vast land masses that are now today’s continents, inhabited western North America.
“The stressed tropical and subtropical ecosystems and movement of species 38 million years ago that resemble changes happening today may have driven the evolution and rise of hypercarnivorous carnivoramorphans, particularly the nimravids,” Dr. Poust said.
“The discovery of Pangurban egiae reminds us how quickly invasion and adaptation can occur and the large role it has played in the history of life.”
The team’s paper was published in the journal Biology Letters.
Ashley W. Poust et al. 2022. An early nimravid from California and the rise of hypercarnivorous mammals after the middle Eocene climatic optimum. Biol. Lett 18 (10): 20220291; doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2022.0291
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