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Ancient species of pandas were discovered in southeastern Europe

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Six million years ago, a relative of today’s giant pandas roamed the ancient forests, but in Bulgaria, not China, scientists say.

Researchers used a set of fossilized teeth discovered in the 1970s to discover a new panda species. The teeth were first discovered by paleontologist Ivan Nikolov, and the species is named after him Agriarctos nikolovi.

The finding is DESCRIBED in Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The teeth are shiny and black because they were fossilized in coal deposits in Bulgaria. Researchers believe they date from the Messinian era 7.2 million to 5.3 million years ago and that the animal lived in wet forests and swamps. Maybe it was comparable in MAGNITUDE to modern pandas, which can weigh up to 250 pounds.

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The fossilized teeth are less strong than those of modern-day pandas, which chew on woody bamboo, and researchers think the ancient bears relied on softer plants.

The Bulgarian and Chinese research team claims that the newly discovered bear was not a direct ancestor of modern giant pandas. Rather, they believe that its evolutionary family either moved from Asia to Europe and died out with A. nikolovi or from Europe to Asia, where it evolved into another genus of pandas.

If pandas migrated from Europe to Asia, say the researchers, it was probably due to a climate change that had a negative effect on the existence of the last European panda. When the Miocene epoch ended about 5.3 million years ago, Europe became much drier and the swamps and forests that the bear relied on for food disappeared. In the same period, the Mediterranean Sea is thought to have partially or almost completely dried up, becoming extremely salty in the process.

This discovery shows how little we still know about ancient nature and also shows that historical discoveries in paleontology can lead to unexpected results, even today, Nikolai Spassov, who heads Bulgaria’s National Museum of Natural History and co-wrote the paper. news release.

Sources

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2/ https://www.washingtonpost.com/science/2022/08/06/ancient-pandas-discovered/

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