Siamogale Melilutra in Yunnan

Siamogale melilutra is an extinct species of giant otter from the late Miocene from Yunnan province, China. The skull reveals a combination of otter-like and badger-like cranial and dental characteristics. The new species belongs to the Lutrinae because of its possession of a large infraorbital canal and ventral expansion of the mastoid process, among other traits.[1]Siamogale melilutra was about 1.9 m (6.25 ft) in overall length and weighed at least 40 kg (88 pounds).[2] The remains of the skull were found in China and were re-created with a special program called the CT scan which is able to reconstruct the skeleton without being damaged.

Discovery and Naming

  • Discovery: Fossils of Siamogale melilutra were discovered in the Shuitangba lignite mine in the Yunnan Province of China.
  • Naming: The genus name “Siamogale” references its otter lineage, and the species name “melilutra” combines the Latin words for badger (“meles”) and otter (“lutra”), highlighting its blend of characteristics.

Physical Characteristics

  • Size: Siamogale melilutra was significantly larger than modern otters, estimated to have weighed around 50 kg (110 lbs), making it one of the largest otters known.
  • Skull and Teeth: The species had a robust skull and powerful jaws with enlarged teeth adapted for crushing hard objects, such as shellfish.


  • Evolutionary Insight: The discovery of Siamogale melilutra provides important insights into the evolutionary history of otters, showing a diverse range of adaptations and ecological niches.
  • Adaptation: Its physical characteristics suggest it was well-adapted to a diet that included hard-shelled prey, demonstrating the diverse feeding strategies among otters.

Fossil Sites in Yunnan

  • The Shuitangba site in Yunnan, where Siamogale melilutra was found, is rich in fossilized remains of various prehistoric animals, offering a glimpse into the region’s ancient ecosystems.
  • Yunnan’s fossil sites have contributed significantly to our understanding of the diversity and evolution of mammals during the late Miocene and early Pliocene epochs.


  • Habitat: Siamogale melilutra likely lived in a freshwater environment, such as rivers or lakes, which were abundant in the Yunnan region during its time.
  • Ecological Role: As a large predator, it would have played a crucial role in its ecosystem, impacting the populations of prey species and interacting with other contemporary animals.

Importance of Yunnan in Paleontology

  • Yunnan Province is a critical area for paleontological research, providing a wealth of fossils that help scientists reconstruct the ancient environments and understand the evolutionary history of various species.

Siamogale melilutra is a remarkable example of the diversity and adaptability of otters, shedding light on the complex ecosystems of the past and the evolutionary pathways that have shaped modern species.