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Europe’s last panda discovered in museum collection

The fossilized higher molar and canine have been initially discovered within the late Seventies in coal deposits and held within the assortment of the Bulgarian Nationwide Museum of Pure Historical past for greater than 4 a long time.

“They’d just one label written vaguely by hand,” stated Nikolai Spassov, a professor on the museum and writer of a brand new research on the enamel, in a information launch. “It took me a few years to determine what the locality was and what its age was. Then it additionally took me a very long time to comprehend that this was an unknown fossil large panda.”

“This discovery reveals how little we nonetheless learn about historical nature and demonstrates additionally that historic discoveries in paleontology can result in sudden outcomes, even as we speak,” he stated.

Whereas pandas are finest recognized by their solely dwelling consultant, the enormous panda, there was as soon as a spread of associated species that roamed throughout Europe and Asia.

The species found via the museum artifacts was the final recognized panda to reside in Europe, in response to the information launch. Researchers named it Agriarctos nikolovi after the museum’s long-serving paleontologist Ivan Nikolov, who initially cataloged the discover.

The research revealed the bear was as giant as the fashionable large panda or barely smaller. It seemingly ate a principally vegetarian eating regimen, however its meals would have been extra diverse than these of the panda’s solely dwelling relative, which solely eats bamboo. The cusps of the enamel seemingly weren’t onerous sufficient to crush the woody stems of bamboo, suggesting the animal would have eaten softer crops, the analysis indicated.

The coal deposits by which the enamel have been discovered supplied proof that this historical panda inhabited forested, swampy areas. Spassov and his coauthor Qigao Jiangzuo, a panda specialist from Peking College in China, proposed the panda might have turn into extinct throughout an occasion by which the Mediterranean basin dried up, remodeling the encompassing surroundings.

“Big pandas are a really specialised group of bears,” Spassov stated within the launch.

“Even when A. niklovi was not as specialised in habitats and meals as the fashionable large panda, fossil pandas have been specialised sufficient and their evolution was associated to humid, wooded habitats,” he stated. “It’s seemingly that local weather change on the finish of the Miocene in southern Europe, resulting in aridification, had an hostile impact on the existence of the final European panda.”

The Miocene epoch was 23 million to five million years in the past.

The analysis printed on Sunday within the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

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