Scientists: Terminator pigs with huge jaws were not actually predators

(ORDO NEWS) — The ancient entelodonts are usually portrayed as fierce carnivores, but they likely ate the same diet as modern pigs and peccaries.

At one glance at these animals, you immediately think that they are carnivores. In fact, the ancestors of modern pigs ate mostly plant foods.

Approximately 20-40 million years ago, entelodonts – huge, bow-legged, pig-like animals – roamed throughout Eurasia and North America.

But despite their meter-long jaws studded with an alarming array of triangular teeth, these barnyard nightmares appear to have had a typical pig diet.

The new findings shed light on the eating habits of these strange extinct mammals and some of their closest relatives.

Herbivorous “terminator pigs”

Researchers now understand that mammals such as whales and hippos have a close evolutionary relationship.

But the fossil record shows that these groups once shared the planet with several now-extinct related families, some of which may seem daunting today.

There were antracotheres, like dachshund hippos with long, narrow heads. There were also entelodonts: ferocious-looking buffalo-sized pigs with broad, prominent cheekbones, walking on huge muscular legs.

To clarify what entelodonts and anthracotheres actually ate, scientists examined the fossilized teeth of anthracotheres and entelodons that lived in southern France about 30 million years ago during the Oligocene era.

The food that animals eat leaves microscopic pits and scratches on the surface of the teeth.

These patterns can help researchers determine what food an animal ate when it was alive. Bones and seeds tend to leave holes, while grass and foliage mostly leave scratches.

The team compared these micro-patterns on the fossilized teeth with a database of patterns from other mammals with known diets, such as wild boars, bears, lions, hippos and horses.

It turned out that, for example, Anthracotherium seemed to enjoy a diet consisting almost entirely of plant foods, which is similar to mammals that graze and eat fruit.

Instead of grouping with omnivorous predators like bears, entelodonts were most similar in diet to modern wild boars and peccaries.

Does this mean that the terminator pigs were all grunting and not biting? Not necessary. Modern pigs will eat meat if given the chance, and entelodonts probably did the same.

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