History: 11.4-Million-Year-Old Otter Fossil found
Sep 2021: A new species of the extinct genus Vishnuonyx was recently identified from the 11.4-million-year-old lower jaw bone found at the Upper Miocene site of Hammerschmiede in the Allgäu region of Germany (photo: "HAM 4").
Commonly known as the Neptune Vishnu otters, V. neptuni, due to their origination in the region of the Indian subcontinent, the Vishnuonyx is an extinct genus of mid-sized otters (10-15 kg). These otters are estimated to have lived between 14 to 12.5 million years ago in the major rivers of Southern Asia.
The finding represents the first occurrence of the genus in Europe and its most northern and western record. “Recent finds showed that Vishnu otters reached East Africa about 12 million years ago,” said Dr. Nikolaos Kargopoulos, a paleontologist in the Department of Geosciences at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, and his colleagues.
Computer-tomographic ("CT") scans were used to visualize the details in teeth of the jaw bone. The teeth suggest that the Neptune Vishu otter dined on "mainly on fish and less on bivalves or plant material, resembling the living giant otter Pteronura brasiliensis.”
The discovery of Vishnuonyx neptuni is reported in the Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology.
For more information:
Nikolaos Kargopoulos et al. New Early Late Miocene species of Vishnuonyx (Carnivora, Lutrinae) from the hominid locality of Hammerschmiede, Bavaria, Germany. Journal of Vertebrate Palaeontology (online: Sep 16, 2021; doi: 10.1080/02724634.2021.1948858 )