Giant Ancient Otters: NHM Scientist Paper

A Natural History Museum paleontologist has co-authored a look at the amazing recent discovery.

Some Californians dig date shakes, while others forgo the traditional desert treat. Other Golden Staters adore shredded cabbage on their tacos, while others want to go the burrito route. And some people 'round these parts seek out snow, while others desire sand.

But everyone, and this is pretty much the way it is and shall ever be, has a soft spot for otters. For those playful, tumbling, abalone-lovin' fursters never don't delight, whether they're spied at a local aquarium or just off California's Central Coast (and, yes, they can sometimes be seen in our rivers, too).

What we never, ever see, however, are wolf-sized otters that weigh in at well over 100 pounds, because... that might be too amazing, and unsettling, and fictional.

Fictional it is not, though. For the Curator and Head of Vertebrate Paleontology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County has co-authored a paper for "The Journal of Systematic Paleontology" all about the giant, long-extinct otter.

Dr. Xiaoming Wang, along with Dr. Denise Su, Curator and Head of Paleobotany and Paleoecology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, recently wrote about "the discovery of one of the largest otter species ever found."

A "team of international scientists" found a complete cranium in Southwestern China, leading to a number of observations about this ancient mammal. "The fossil is 6.24 million years old," shares the Natural History Museum.

The cranium is full of clues for modern-day researchers, leading to the observation that these mega otters were "about the size of a wolf and weighed approximately 110 pounds." Some contemporary ocean otters can top out at close to 100 pounds at the upper end of the scale.

It's a major find, as scientists had been working with "isolated teeth recovered from Thailand" to piece together the world of the Siamogale melilutra, the ancient otter's official handle.

Fascinating? So much so. Furry? Otters are, yes. Bound to further encourage Californians to dig the whiskery, waterbound mammals even more, now that we know that otters were even bigger way, way, way back when?

How can we not love that? And find pride in the fact of Dr. Wang of our own Natural History Museum played a role in sharing this scientific slice of wonder with the world?

After all, we have a lot of regional pride in our California otters, as we should. Next time you see one, at an aquarium or floating just off-shore, picture how an enormous otter might have looked 6,000,000 years ago.

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