6 Million Years Ago, Otters the Size of Wolves Roamed China’s Wetlands By Nicholas st. fleur

Summary of Article: About six million years ago, in the wetlands of southwestern China, there roamed an ancient relative to the otter that was far more fearsome than the adorable animal we have come to know today. These animals are known as Siamogale melilutra and they were about the size of a wolf with very strong-looking jaws. A team of scientists from China and the United States found the new species based on a cranium, a jawbone and some teeth they found in a coal mine. Otters today are about the size of a small dog and even the largest don't grow more than 75 pounds. The S. melilutra however is estimated to have been about six feet long from snout to the tip of the tail and weighed about 110 pounds.

Next the article explained how they figured out how big the extinct otter was. The key came from the fossil of its cantaloupe-size cranium but they had to use very special steps to uncover the history behind the S. melilutra because when they found the fossil it was squashed flat. Luckily the pieces were all still present and they fit together well so with the help of a CT scan they were able to digitally reconstruct it. Once they had the picture of the head they were able to estimate how big the rest of the body would have been. Right now, the researchers aren’t sure why the otter was so big but some have suggested it had something to do with the large mollusks that shared its swamp. It is speculated that the otter might have mostly preyed on the clams and shellfish, rather than on the large land animals that lived in the area. Being large would have been evolutionarily advantageous for a creature that had to crush through hard shells for food. All in all, a very interesting story about our amazing history and current research and technology.

Analysis of Article: Although on the surface it may just seem like a fun story about ancient beasts that are some sort of relative to adorable otters, there is a lot to take note of here. The article explains a lot of important steps that are taken when scientists try to understand the history of our planet and the creatures that used to inhabit it. The researchers, with nothing but pieces of a skull and some teeth, are able to use their skills and technology to get a very accurate description of what this animal would have looked like along with an estimated size. This technology was something that I personally wasn't aware of and additionally I think it is very important for more people nowadays to pay attention to stories like this because it is vital to understand our planet's amazing history.

CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE SIAMOGALE MELILUTRA:

My Big Takeaway: The reason I choose this article was because at first glance it was very intriguing to me and I really enjoy reading and being able to visualize our Earths amazing history. The prospect of a world in which there are giant otters is something I found really cool and interesting. In terms of expanding my knowledge on this topic I think it would be very interesting to see and read about all the different types of cases where common animals that we know today have ancestral roots back into ancient history but have some sort of mutation like they are insanely large or used to be able to fly. I'm not sure of how many cases we know of today like this but after reading this article I am very interested to find out.

Credits:

Created with images by amitp - "Otter" • ahisgett - "Otter 6"

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