The Tartarocyon is part dog-part bear and is thought to have gone extinct about 7.5million years ago
Image: Denny Navarra/Newsflash)
A part dog-part bear thought to have roamed around Europe millions of years ago has been identified by an international team of scientists.
The ancient predator has been named Tartarocyon – nod to a large, powerful, one-eyed giant from Basque mythology.
The team of experts, led by Bastien Mennecart from the Natural History Museum Basel, in Switzerland, made the discovery after studying a fossilised jaw that they determined belonged to a new type of “bear dog”.
The species of large carnivorous animal is believed to have weighed as much as 320 kilogrammes (about 705 lbs), appearing in Europe 36 million years ago before going extinct about 7.5 million years ago.
The palaeontologist said: “The jawbone comes from 12.8 to 12 million-year-old marine deposits that were examined in the small community of Sallespisse in the Pyrenees-Atlantiques department of south-western France.”
They explained that the fossilised bone was particularly striking due to its teeth.
“Unlike the familiar amphicyonidae specimens, this animal has a unique fourth lower premolar.
“This tooth is particularly important for determining species and genera.
“Correspondingly, the lower jaw examined probably represents a new genus.
“It is called Tartarocyon. This name comes from Tartaro, a large, powerful, one-eyed giant from Basque mythology.
“The legend of Tartaro is also known in Bearn, the region where the lower jaw was found.
“Floreal Sole, a globally renowned specialist in carnivorous mammals, Jean-Francois Lesport and Antoine Heitz from the Natural History Museum Basel chose the name of the new genus.”
The fossilised jaw belongs to a group of predators that resembled “a cross between a bear and a large dog, known as ‘bear dogs’.”
The scientists added: “They belong to a group of carnivores such as dogs, cats, bears, seals and badgers.
“These predators were a widespread part of the European fauna of the Miocene (23 to 5.3 million years ago).
“They were very species-rich and diverse, weighing between 9 kg and 320 kg. Tarataroyon is estimated at 200 kgs.
“The last European Amphicyonidae disappeared during the late Miocene 7.5 million years ago.”