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New Species of Ancient Egyptian Carnivore Unearthed

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A new species of an extinct carnivorous animal has been identified by scientists. Researchers have identified the new species using dozens of fossilised specimens, including multiple skulls, jaws, and limb bones.

The species, known as Masrasector nananubi was a dog-like predator with powerful jaws and sharp teeth. The animal’s name, nananubi, means ‘tiny Anubis,’ because of its resemblance to the Ancient Egyptian god of the underworld.

Anubis the Ancient Egyptian God of the Underworld. Source
The Ancient Egyptian god of the underworld, Anubis.  Source

The fossils were found in the Egyptian desert of Southwest Cairo. Further analysis indicated that the species belonged to a group of predators known as hyaenodonts. These predators roamed the Earth more than 40 million years ago and were the only carnivorous mammals in Africa after the extinction of dinosaurs.

The study in PLOS Onestates that a skull from the samples is “the oldest known from an Afro-Arabian hyaenodont.” According to researchers, African hyaenodonts are a rare find, and the new species has become one of the most completely known African hyaenodonts ever discovered.

Reconstructed model of a Hyaenodon. Source
Reconstructed model of a Hyaenodon. Source

Based on the remains, researchers believe that the species was an on-land predator, ranging in size from small dog-like creatures to 500 kilogram beasts. They were strict carnivores with meat-slicing blades on their teeth, allowing them to attack small rodents. They also discovered hyaenodonts were apex predators and would move swiftly to hunt down their prey.

“Hyaenodonts were the the top predators in Africa after the extinction of the dinosaurs,” said Matthew Borths from Ohio University, one of the authors of the study.

“This new species is associated with a dozen specimens, including skulls and arm bones, which means we can explore what it ate, how it moved, and consider why these carnivorous mammals died off as the relatives of dogs, cats, and hyenas moved into Africa.”

Fossilised skull of one of the newly- found specimens. Source
Fossilised skull of one of the newly- found specimens. Source

The group of animals originated in North Africa and ranged across Europe, Asia and North America. Hyaenodonts are ancestors of the modern carnivore and were largely replaced by cats and dogs after extinction.

Discovery of the fossils has allowed scientists to determine how the species diversified in the absence of dinosaurs. The new species will also help researchers to uncover why these mammals died, while their close relatives including cats, hyenas, and dogs went to Africa.

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