Fossilized teeth found in Bulgaria in the 1970s belong to a close relative of the modern giant panda.
A team of Bulgarian scientists has discovered that tooth fossils found in Bulgaria in the 1970s likely belonged to the last known and “most evolved” European giant panda species, reports EurekAlert.
The tooth remains were unearthed from the Bulgarian National Museum of Natural History, originally found in this region of Eastern Europe in the late 1970s.
An upper carnivorous tooth and tusk were cataloged by paleontologist Ivan Nikolov who added them to the museum’s repository of fossilized treasures when they were unearthed in northwestern Bulgaria. In his honor, the new, previously unknown species was named ‘Agriarctos nikolovi’.
“They just had a vaguely handwritten label. It took us over a year to discover its habitat, location and age. Then it also took me a long time to realize that it was an unknown giant panda fossil,” he shared the details. of the discovery the leader of the study, Professor Nikolai Spassov.
‘Agriarctos nikolovi’ is not a direct ancestor of modern giant pandas, but its close relative, specifies the professor on the discoveries published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
The researchers date the find to the Miocene epoch. They believe that about 6 million years ago, representatives of this species moved through the wooded and marshy regions of Eastern Europe.
Fossils of the grass on which the modern panda feeds are scarce in the European fossil record, especially from the Bulgarian Late Miocene. And the tips of the teeth of the studied specimen do not seem strong enough to crush fibrous stems such as bamboo, according to the authors of the work.
Scientists estimate that the ancient panda fed on softer vegetables.