Huge Ancient Predator Rediscovered in a Museum Drawer
Tue, April 20, 2021

Huge Ancient Predator Rediscovered in a Museum Drawer

 

Sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s, archeologists discovered the 22 million-year-old fossils of Simbakubwa kutokaafrika at Menswa Bridge, a dig site in western Kenya. It is the oldest known member of a hyaenodont subgroup, an extinct group of hyper carnivorous eutherian mammals that appeared about 62 million years ago, originating in Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. This creature was huge, hunting some of the colossal forerunners of today's hyraxes, hippos, and elephants. 

The last hyaenodonts died about 11 million years ago. Studies suggest that it was because of continental drift. 

 

Photo Credit: National Geographic

 

Reports have shown that the Simbakubwa’s weight was at 617 pounds (280 kilograms), which is on par with the bulkiest modern lions. But researchers have stated that they could potentially weigh up to 3,425 pounds (1,554 kilograms). This could make it heavier than any carnivorous land mammal alive today. Archeologists have found some of its foot bones, a partial snout, and a massive lower jaw complete with 4-inch (10-centimeter) canines. 

 

Photo Credit: National Geographic

 

Researchers paid little attention to the fossils until 2010. According to HowStuffWorks, an American commercial infotainment website, Ohio University paleontologist Nancy J. Stevens visited the Nairobi National Museum and discovered the fossils hidden in a drawer. "Most of the specimens that I study are quite small so you can imagine my surprise when I opened a drawer that I hadn't examined yet and saw the enormous teeth glinting up at me,” she said. 

 

Photo Credit: Gizmodo

 

According to Reuters, an international news organization, hyaenodonts came before carnivore groups like cats, bears, hyenas, and wolves. Thus, they were closely related to none of them. “At first glance, it would have looked like a gigantic hyena or long-tailed wolf with a head that was a little too big for its body. I imagine something like the ‘wargs’ from ‘Lord of the Rings,’” Matt Borths, a Duke Lemur Center paleontologist, said. 

 

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