The Prince of Spanish Oligocene predators: Dinailurictis

Most members of the extinct family Nimravidae were cat-like predators from lynx to leopard size, including the famous sabertoothed genera Eusmilus and Hoplophoneus. But in the European Oligocene some nimravid species (more closely related to Nimravus) evolved to fill the niche of the superpredator, reaching the size of a modern lion. One such monster was Dinailurictis, whose fossils have been found in the Spanish Oligocene site of Carrascosa. Most herbivores living in the Europan archipielago at that time were pretty smallish creatures, and you would expect that for much of the time Dinailurictis was actually catching prey smaller than itself.
With a body mass of around 130 kg, Dinailurictis was one of the largest nimravids ever to exist, but in Carrascosa the remains of an even larger relative have been found, and classified as Quercylurus. These animals would rival a male lion in mass, with a weight of about 200 kg! Quercylurus would thus be the king of Spanish Oligocene predators and the biggest nimravid ever, but its remains are quite fragmentary and the differences with Dinailurictis rather subtle, so more material would be most welcome to make a clearer case for the presence of two species of giant nimravid in Carrascosa.

Now here is a reconstruction of Dinailurictis based on the Carrascosa fossils and on remains of related animals. The predator has just caught a vaguely pig-like ungulate of the genus Methriotherium, while in the background two minute herbivores of the genus Cainotherium warily leave the area.
carrascosa fragment low res

This is just a corner of a larger scene depicting the strange fauna of the Oligocene in the plains of Central Spain. More to come!

Posted on 11/02/2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Spain virtually covers almost the whole Cenozoic with its fossils…

  2. Wonderful! I can’t believe this is just a small part… can’t wait to see the rest

  3. Gorgeous depiction of the giant nimravid! I’m pleased that your depiction is already in the top few results for a Google image search for Dinailurictis… It appears that before your piece, no serious reconstructive art of this creature existed.
    That is why I love following your blog. You are always breaking new ground!

  4. Wow, that Nimravid looks more like an modern Fossa than an cat.

    Pretty amazing art though ^^

  5. Sheila Collins

    I love this blog! I wonder if any DNA has ever been recovered from nimravid fossils? Given the extreme age of the fossils I guess it’s unlikely, but I have never read anything confirming that. Do you know, Mauricio, whether actual DNA evidence has been recovered from any sabertooths (or any other cats or nimravids), other than some fragmentary DNA from Panthera atrox (or Panthera leo atrox, depending on which authority one follows)?

  6. Thank you Sheila! I am not aware of any example of DNA extracted from a nimravid fossil, but it has been done several times with fossils of felid sabertooths. Useful samples have been extracted from Smilodon specimens from Southern Chile, and Homotherium from Alaska. Comparison of those samples with modern and fossil felines seem to confirm the classification fo the sabertooths as close cousins of our living cats.

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