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Found: The Bones of a Giant Otter

This 110-pound otter also had the teeth of a badger.

The otter's skull was found in China.
The otter’s skull was found in China. Cleveland Museum of Natural History

The otter S. melilutra would have weighed 110 pounds—about the size of a large dog or a small woman. It had the teeth of a badger and could smash or pry open even the most resistant clams and other shellfish with its brute strength. It’s not the sort of creature you’d want to run into the swampy places where it lived.

Lucky for us humans, it lived 6.2 million years ago.

An artist imagines a giant otter in its natural habitat.
An artist imagines a giant otter in its natural habitat. Mauricio Antón

The newly described species of otter was discovered after a nearly complete skull was found in southwestern China. The skull was crushed in a “pancake-like shape,” LiveScience reports, but by using CT scans, a team of researchers was able to reconstruct it. Teeth, jawbones, and limb bones from the same species were also found at the site.

This ancient species of otter would have been larger than any living otter, and scientists are trying to understand why it was so giant, how it swam, and how it moved on the ground, LiveScience reports.

We have one additional question: Was it cute, like modern-day otters? Or, at this size, did it switch over to straight-up terrifying?