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CRI 科学家了解云南水獭化石取得进展 2017.04.19

Scientists say they're making more progress in understanding a rare animal fossil they found in China. International teams from the USA and China discovered a giant otter that lived six million years ago. Paleontologists say the fossil they found in Yunnan province is groundbreaking - and may tell us more about how animals could survive global warming.

Thousands of visitors pass through the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles every year. But behind the dinosaur bones and prehistoric animal skeletons are scientists hard at work. Their latest find is the fossil of a huge otter that lived six million years ago in China. And teams of paleontologists from across Asia and the USA are now working out what to do with it.

"This otter was about the size of a wolf, probably almost six feet long including the tail and probably over 100 pounds so not something I would want to meet."

Dr Denise Su is from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. She was one of the scientists who found the fossil in China several years ago.

"It's taken us this long to do analysis because when the cranium was first found it really was squashed flat as a pancake. That has been the focus finding out what it is. Now we're moving on to what it was doing, how did it move, it's huge, did it swim like modern otters? What was it actually eating it has a huge head and teeth what was it doing with all of those things."

And that's what they're trying to do here in Los Angeles now. Dr Xiaoming Wang is trying to make a realistic computer simulation of the otter.

"During that period of time in the late miocene it is relatively warm, warmer than it is at the present time, it's pre-ice age but well after the dinosaur has become extinct. The bone is still in the Chinese province of Yunnan. We scanned it and took photos and measured it from that we can analyse the details and come up with overall analysis."

The scientists hope this humble otter, however huge, will tell them more about how animals respond to climate change. And that the potential treasure trove of fossils in China could be the key to understanding science both now and then.


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