Q What is the context ?
A Between 12.5 million and 14 million years ago, members of a genus of otters called Vishnuonyx lived in the major rivers of southern Asia.
Q What is Vishnuonyx neptuni ?
- Vishnuonyx were mid-sized predators that weighed, on average, 10-15 kg.
- Before this, the genus was known only in Asia and Africa (recent findings show that Vishnuonyx reached East Africa about 12 million years ago, according to the release).
- Vishnuonyx depended on water and could not travel long distances over land.
Q Why in news?
- German researchers have discovered the fossil of a previously unknown species, which they have named Vishnuonyx neptuni, meaning ‘Neptune’s Vishnu’.
- Fossils of these now extinct otters were first discovered in sediments found in the foothills of the Himalayas.
- Now, a newly found fossil indicates it had travelled as far as Germany. ‘
- The dispersal of Vishnuonyx otters from the Indian subcontinent to Africa and Europe about 13 million years ago. ‘
- This is the first discovery of any member of the Vishnuonyx genus in Europe; it is also its most northern and western record till date.
Q How did it travel as far as Europe?
- According to the researchers, its travels over 6,000 km were probably made possible by the geography of 12 million years ago, when the Alps were recently formed.
- These Alps and the Iranian Elbrus Mountains were separated by a large ocean basin, which would have made it easier for the otters to cross it.
- Researchers believe ‘Neptune’s Vishnu’ first reached southern Germany, followed by Ancient Guenz and eventually, the Hammerschmiede.