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Current Affairs

Vishnuonyx

Date: 22 September 2021 Tags: Biodiversity

Issue

Fossils of now extinct genus of otters, Vishnuonyx, have been discovered in ancient site of Germany. Till now their fossils were discovered in Himalayan foothills.

 

Background

The Vishnuonyx genus lived between 12.5 million and 14 million years ago in the major rivers of southern Asia. 

 

Details

  • The discovery further indicates that these otters travelled as far as Germany. These previously unknown species has been named Vishnuonyx neptuni, meaning ‘Neptune’s Vishnu’.

  • The discovery of a lower jaw was made in the area of Hammerschmiede fossil site in Bavaria, Germany. The area is under study since last 50 years.

 

Features

  • Vishnuonyx were mid-sized predators that weighed about 15-20 kg. Before this discovery, the species was assumed to exist only in Asia and Africa.

  • This genus was excessively water dependent and could not live without it. Scientists believe they crossed into Europe by swimming through ocean.

  • The Vishnuonyx neptuni is similar to the Eurasian otter, rather than the species of Pacific sea otter or the African & Asian finger otters.

 

The journey

  • About 12 million years ago, the Alps Mountains were recently formed.  A large ocean basin separated Alps and Elbrus mountains of Iran, which allowed easy movement through the Araks strait.

  • It is assumed that Vishnuonyx neptuni first reached southern Germany and later moved to Ancient Guenz and eventually, the Hammerschmiede via the Danube delta.

 

Significance

This is the northern-most and also the western-most discovery of the Vishnuonyx genus. It is also the first discovery of the genus in Europe.