Scientists have dug up fossils of a large otter — as big as a wolf! — that lived in rivers and lakes in a lush, warm wetlands region in southwestern China about 6.2 million years ago.
The huge otter, called Siamogale melilutra, weighed about 110 pounds and measured about 6½ feet long, making it bigger than any of its modern cousins, researchers said Monday.
“Siamogale melilutra reminds us, I think, of the diversity of life in the past … Who would have imagined a wolf-size otter?” said Denise Su, a curator at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
It had large teeth and strong jaws that appear to have been used for crunching hard objects, and it was capable of swimming in shallow, swampy waters.
The fossils, found at a site in Yunnan province, include a largely complete cranium and lower jaw, various teeth and limb bones.
The largest otter alive today is the South American giant river otter, which weighs up to 70 pounds.
Siamogale melilutra may not be the largest otter ever: Fossils of one that might have been even bigger have been found in Africa.