12-03-2023 by redazione
They called it "Simbakubwa," the big lion in the Kiswahili language, but in fact the huge carnivorous mammal that lived on earth 22 million years ago and whose remains were found in Kenya is actually the oldest specimen of a group of extinct mammals known as "hyaenodonts."
Its fossilized bones were found six years ago in a cavern at the Nairobi National Museum by American paleontologist Mattew Borths, who was doing some research on hyaenodonts. On the label of the remains, which included much of the animal's jawbone, as well as fragments of the skeleton, skull and teeth, was written simply "hyenas." The fossils had been found in 1978 in Meswa Bridge, western Kenya .
That was how extensive studies of Simbakubwa's remains, funded by the University of Buffalo, began.
The full study was recently reprinted in Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology and helps to clarify some aspects of the evolution of this group of huge carnivores, which were almost at the top of the food chain in the same African ecosystems, as well as the reasons for the disappearance of these huge carnivores similar to hyenas in appearance, but to bears in tonnage, but agile and powerful as felines.
"Even before the predecessors of the modern carnivores we know so well-such as lions, hyenas, and wolves-evolved, the global predator scene was basically dominated by hyaenodonts," American University expert Jack Tseng explained to National Geographic, which partly funded the research.
Despite being large and powerful, Simbakubwa still failed to survive, and all hyaenodonts went extinct at the end of the Miocene, about five million years ago, probably due to environmental changes.
"Current hypercarnivores, such as lions, hyenas, tigers and wolves, are also among the most endangered mammals that exist, and in part because of their sensitivity to environmental changes," Borths explained to National Geographic. "Because populations of hypercarnivorous animals are relatively small compared to those of other organisms, they suffer more when the food chain begins to become imbalanced.
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