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Tennessee scientists are digging up fossils of prehistoric pig-like creatures in a stunning discovery

A modern peccary.
(iStock)

In a thrilling discovery, scientists at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) has recently confirmed that the prehistoric fossils found in an area known as the Gray Fossil Site belonged to two different species of ancient peccaries, pig-like creatures.

The fossils, including a part of a well-preserved skull, confirm that there are two types of peccaries — Mylohyus elmorei and Prosthennops serus — roamed this area in prehistoric times. In fact, the findings for the first time are the remains of one of the two species found in the Appalachian region, the university said in a press release.

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While one of the two types, Prosthennops serus, had previously been found in other fossil sites in the U.S., it has never before been found in the Appalachian region. And the other, Mylohyus elmorei, has only been found in a region of central Florida, more than 900 kilometres to the south,” the university said.

Scientists were able to identify this prehistoric animal species, thanks to the well-preserved remains of the skull,” which included the “nearly complete lower jaws of both species.”

Both the Prosthennops serus and Mylohyus elmorei would probably be the size of a German shepherd, which the scientists noted is larger than modern peccaries.

“Details of the peccaries’ teeth suggest they spent their life browsing on the leaves and fruits of succulent plants, so they would have been right at home in the Gray Fossil Site of the ecosystem, which we know from plant fossils has been expanded with nice vegetation,” Chris Widga, the chief curator at the ETSU Museum of Natural History at the Gray Fossil Site that was once “a large pond surrounded by a lush forest,” — said in a statement.

While peccaries may look like pigs, they are not members of the family pig, according to the university.

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“Where pigs, members of the family Suidae, native to Europe, Asia and Africa, while peccaries belong to the family Tayassuidae and live in America,” the university explained.

The Gray Fossil site contains “fossil-rich clay” and preserves “an ancient ecosystem, which dates from around 5 million years,” said ETSU was also the home to ancient rhinos, tapirs, mastodons, alligators, and in one go.

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