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Discover what was the first carnivorous animal that lived 42 million years ago

Representation of the recently discovered Diegoaelurus vanvalkenburghae, one of the oldest cats and the first true carnivore.

A new research paper describes one of the oldest cat-like predators off the west coast of North America, giving us new insights into these ancient predators and the evolution of modern carnivores.

“Today, being able to eat a meat-only diet, also called hypereating, is not uncommon. Tigers do that, and polar bears can do that. If you had a house cat, you might have hypereating in the house. But 42 million years ago, it was Mammals only figure out how to survive on meat alone.”Paleontologist Ashley Post of the San Diego Museum of Natural History says.

“A big advance has been the development of specialized teeth for cutting meat, something we see in this newly described specimen.”says the world.

The creature just described, It is called Diegoaelurus vanvalkenburghaeknown only from a portion of the lower jaw with a few teeth attached to it, pBut teeth provide a lot of information about this ancient predator.

Diegoaelurus vanvalkenburghae is part of the extinct cat family called MacaeroidinaeAnd the It means “like a dagger”. This fossil appears to be the latest machaeroidine found, and It is quite different from its closest known relative, Apataelurus kayi.

“Nothing like this has ever been found in mammals.”says Poust.

“Some mammalian ancestors had long fangs, but Diego Elorus and its few relatives represent the cats’ first approach to a meat diet, with sword teeth in front and sharp scissor teeth called carnassials in the back.” expert says.

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“It’s a powerful mix in which different groups of animals have evolved independently in the millions of years that have passed since then,” he adds.

The jaw of Diegoaelurus vanvalkenburghae.  (San Diego Museum of Natural History) (San Diego Museum of Natural History)
The jaw of Diegoaelurus vanvalkenburghae. (San Diego Museum of Natural History) (San Diego Museum of Natural History)

It is important to note that other subfamilies have also evolved saber-toothed predators, Including the similarly named Machairodontinae, which contains Smilodon fatalis, the most famous saber-toothed cat.

The jawbone has been in the museum’s collection since 1988, but the team analyzed it recently. The fossil was discovered from a 42-million-year-old bedrock called the Santiago Formation in San Diego. This formation dates back to the late Eocene and can give us information about a time when the world was warmer and California was wet jungle.

“Fossils from the Santiago Formation show us humid California forests where baby rhinos, primitive tapirs, and exotic sheep-like herbivores graze under trees while unusual primates and marsupials cling to the canopy above.”Post said.

“This richness of prey species would have been polymorphic for Diegoaelurus, allowing it to live the life of a dedicated hunter earlier than most other mammals.” to explain

For now, this is the only Diegoaelurus fossil, which makes it a bit isolated in the San Diego Museum’s collection, but as research and digging progresses deeper, cats similar to this early carnivore can be discovered.

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