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New fossil discovery indicates carnivores first developed in Europe

The discovery of the oldest and most complete fossils of the ancestor of modern carnivores was reported by Floréal Solé from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and colleagues from Belgium, France, and the United States in the Jan 6, 2014, edition of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

This is a reconstruction of Dormaalcyon latouri.
Art by Charlène Letenneur (MNHN) and Pascale Golinvaux (RBINS).

The new specimens of Dormaalocyon latouri are 55 million years old. The fossils contain an almost complete set of teeth including “baby teeth”. The primitive nature of the teeth indicates that Dormaalocyon latouri is the oldest known ancestor of carnivores. The animal lived and hunted in trees.

The researchers can make a direct connection between the fossils and modern lions, tigers, seals, and bears, as well as cats and dogs, through the shape and form of the teeth found in the fossils as well as DNA.

Dormaalocyon latouri was not the first mammal but may have been a pivotal species that had the necessary dentition and bone structure to evolve into many of the carnivores that are known today.

The fossils were found in Belgium and indicate that at least one of the original carnivores came from Europe. The fossils also confirm the concept that a forest covered and connected most of North America and Europe during the late Paleocene and earliest Eocene time periods.

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