- Scientists have discovered a tooth in Westbury Cave in Somerset
- It belonged to a species of ancient hippopotamus called Hippopotamus antiquus.
- This dates to about one million years ago, indicating that the species roamed Britain about 300,000 years earlier than previously thought.
Giant hippopotamuses, weighing about three tons, roamed Britain a million years ago, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Leicester have discovered a tooth in a cave in Somerset that they believe belonged to a giant species of hippo called Hippopotamus anticus, and that is about a million years old .
Researchers say the hippopotamus was much larger than the modern African hippopotamus, weighing three tons.
While previous research has indicated that these creatures roamed the UK 750,000 years ago, the new tooth suggests the animals lived here much earlier than previously thought.
Researchers at the University of Leicester have discovered a tooth in a cave in Somerset, which they believe belonged to a giant hippopotamus named Hippopotamus anticus, and that is about one million years old.
In the study, University of Leicester researchers excavated Westbury Cave in Somerset, where they uncovered a hippo tooth
Hippopotamus anticus was a genus of hippo that spread throughout Europe about 1.8 million years ago.
It was much larger than the modern African hippo, weighing about three tons, and was also more dependent on aquatic habitats than its living relative.
Previous research has uncovered fossils in sites across Europe, including Germany, France and the Netherlands.
In the study, researchers from the University of Leicester excavated Westbury Cave in Somerset, where they uncovered a hippo tooth.
Dating revealed the fossil to be more than a million years old – significantly older than previous hippo fossils found in the UK, which date back 750,000 years.
Dr Neil Adams, who led the study, said: ‘It was very exciting to come across a hippo tooth during our recent excavations at Westbury Cave.
‘This is not only the first record of a hippo from the site, but also the first known hippo fossil from any site in Britain older than 750,000 years.
‘The gradual uplift of the land along with the erosion caused by the movement of the ice sheets has removed a large part of the deposits of this era in Britain.
‘Our comparison with sites across Europe shows that Westbury Cave is a significant exception and that the new hippo dates to a previously unrecognized warm period in the British fossil record.’
Astonishingly little is known about the fauna and flora that lived in Britain between 1.8 – 0.8 million years ago – a critical period when early humans began to occupy Europe. Image: Artist’s impression of Hippo in Norfolk
Astonishingly little is known about the fauna and flora that lived in Britain between 1.8 – 0.8 million years ago – a critical period when early humans began to occupy Europe.
However, the researchers hope the new findings will help fill in this gap, with teeth indicating that the gap was warm enough to allow hippos to move from the Mediterranean to southern England.
Study co-author Professor Danielle Schrave said: ‘Hippos are not only fantastic animals but they also reveal evidence about past seasons.
‘Many megafaunal species (over a ton in weight) are largely tolerant of temperature fluctuations, but in contrast, we know that modern hippos cannot cope with seasonally frozen water bodies.
‘Our research has shown that in the fossil record, hippos are only found in Britain during periods of climate summer, when summer temperatures were slightly warmer than today, but most importantly, winter temperatures were below freezing. was up.
Previous research has uncovered hippo fossils from this era in sites across Europe, including Germany, France and the Netherlands.
Why are hippos so dangerous?
The world’s third largest land mammal is also the most dangerous.
Despite its predominantly vegetarian diet, the hippopotamus is extremely aggressive and territorial.
The combination of enormous size, sharp teeth, and mobility both in and out of water make it a killer animal.
They are agile and aggressive and kill large animals and sometimes humans.
A yawning hippo, although it may sound cute, can be a danger signal.
Over the years, hippopotamuses have been observed eating impala, kudu, eland, wildebeest and buffalo.
In 2014, 13 people were killed when a hippopotamus capsized in Niger.