Kolponomos is an extinct genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 of marine
Marine mammal
Marine mammals, which include seals, whales, dolphins, and walruses, form a diverse group of 128 species that rely on the ocean for their existence. They do not represent a distinct biological grouping, but rather are unified by their reliance on the marine environment for feeding. The level of...

 bears which existed from the Hemingfordian age to the Aquitanian
Aquitanian could refer to:*Aquitanian age, a geological age, the first stage of the Miocene Epoch*Aquitanian language, an ancient language spoken in the region later known as Gascony* Anything originating from Aquitaine, a region of France....

 age of the Miocene
The Miocene is a geological epoch of the Neogene Period and extends from about . The Miocene was named by Sir Charles Lyell. Its name comes from the Greek words and and means "less recent" because it has 18% fewer modern sea invertebrates than the Pliocene. The Miocene follows the Oligocene...

 epoch, about 20 million years ago. It was described in 1960 by Ruben A. Stirton, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History
American Museum of Natural History
The American Museum of Natural History , located on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City, United States, is one of the largest and most celebrated museums in the world...

, from a partial skull and jaw found on the Olympic Peninsula
Olympic Peninsula
The Olympic Peninsula is the large arm of land in western Washington state of the USA, that lies across Puget Sound from Seattle. It is bounded on the west by the Pacific Ocean, the north by the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the east by Puget Sound. Cape Alava, the westernmost point in the contiguous...

. Stirton thought the fossil was a large marine procyonid
Procyonidae is a New World family of the order Carnivora. It includes the raccoons, coatis, kinkajous, olingos, ringtails and cacomistles. Procyonids inhabit a wide range of environments, and are generally omnivorous.-Characteristics:...

, but a specimen found in two pieces by fossil collector Douglas Emlong
Douglas Emlong
Douglas Ralph Emlong was an amateur fossil collector from the Oregon Coast in the northwestern United States. His collections contributed to the discovery and description of numerous extinct marine mammal species, many of which are ancestral to extant groups...

 near Newport, Oregon
Newport, Oregon
Newport is a city in Lincoln County, Oregon, United States. It was incorporated in 1882, though the name dates back to the establishment of a post office in 1868...

, in 1969 and 1977, proved the genus was related to ancestors of bears. Since that time, one other Kolponomos fossil has been discovered, in the Aleutian Islands, bringing the total number of specimens to three.

Kolponomos had downturned snouts and broad, heavy molars that would have been suited to a diet of hard-shelled marine invertebrates, and their narrow snouts and anteriorly directed eyes indicate that they would have been able to view objects directly in front of their heads. Large neck muscle attachments and robust foot bones combine with these features to suggest that Kolponomos filled a unique niche among marine carnivores, approached today only by the unrelated sea otter
Sea Otter
The sea otter is a marine mammal native to the coasts of the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean. Adult sea otters typically weigh between 14 and 45 kg , making them the heaviest members of the weasel family, but among the smallest marine mammals...

. Due to the lack of a complete skeleton, however, it is difficult to make inferences about this group's other adaptations.

External links

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