Spanish paleontologists have found in Catalonia remains of a previously unknown type of ancient bears are adapted to eating plant foods and similar to the modern giant panda, whose age — 11.6 million years — makes them one of the first herbivorous bears, according to an article published in the journal PLoS One.
"A new species described in our work, not only is the first fossil bear, discovered in the Iberian Peninsula, but also one of the first pandas in the world," — said the head of a group of scientists Abella Juan (Juan Abella) of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid (Spain).
Abella and his colleagues carried out excavations in the Central Valley of Catalonia, in the north-east of Spain between the foothills of the Pyrenees and the Coastal Cordillera. Here are deposited sedimentary rocks formed in the middle Miocene, about 10-12 million years ago.
By studying fossils extracted from the 250-m layer of rocks in the vicinity of the Catalan city-Ostalets Els de Perola, scientists came across an unusual jaw and teeth belonging to a mammal of the bear family (Ursidae). Scientists have appropriated the name of the find Kretzoiarctos beatrix, after the Hungarian paleontologist and anthropologist Krettsoi Miklos, who died in 2005.
This finding itself a significant event — the paleontologists had not been found in Spain and Portugal, the ancient remains of bears that lived in the Iberian Peninsula during the Miocene.
Surprised scientists intensified after they studied the structure of the jaw and the teeth. It turned out that the canines and molars ancient bears were adapted for eating solid plant foods. Apparently, the Spanish bear diet was very similar to the diet of the modern giant panda.
The authors hypothesized that Kretzoiarctos beatrix may belong to one of the modern family of pandas. They tested this hypothesis by comparing the device jaws of a bear with the other members of the family Ursidae. They included as now existing species and extinct bears, including the last known ancestor pandas — Ailurarctos lufengensis, who lived in China 8 million years ago.
The comparison showed that the find Abella and his colleagues was the most similar in terms of anatomy to modern pandas and their ancestors. This suggests that Kretzoiarctos beatrix belong to the genus Ailuropodinae, which includes the existing ones herbivorous bears and their ancestors.
"Given the fact that the remains Kretzoiarctos were present only in the Iberian Peninsula, our work is an argument in favor of the first panda appeared in Western Europe. However, keep in mind that fossil panda is too small to take stock of any final conclusions "- conclude.