A major paleontological find was made by researchers from the Basel Natural History Museum in the Pyrenees area in the small community of Sallespisse in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in southwestern France: a carnivorous mammal prehistoric called colloquially as the bear dog.
The team led by the palenotologist Bastien Mennecart found a fossil jaw that gave the first lights of this animal weighing about 320 kilos and that appeared 36 million years ago before becoming extinct about 7.5 million years ago.
The jaw was conspicuous by its teeth. Unlike the familiar specimens of amphicyonidae, this animal has a single lower fourth premolar. This tooth is particularly important in determining species and genera. Consequently, the lower jaw examined probably represents a new genus. The findings are published in Peer J.
The specimen bears the scientific name Tartarotion. This name comes from Tartarus, a great one-eyed and powerful giant from Basque mythology. The Tartarus legend is also known in Béarn, the region where the lower jaw was found. Floréal Solé, a world-renowned specialist in carnivorous mammals, Jean-François Lesport and Antoine Heitz from the Basel Natural History Museum chose the name of the new genus.
These predators were a widespread part of the European fauna from the Miocene (23 to 5.3 million years ago). They were very rich in species and diverse, weighing between 9 kg and 320 kg. Tarataroyon is estimated at 200 kg. The last European Amphicyonidae disappeared during the late Miocene 7.5 million years ago.