“Scarface” Fossils Reveal New Species of Venomous Mammal

It isn’t every day that a new species of venomous pre-mammal is found, but scientists at The Field Museum have come across an ancient animal from Zambia that they have named Ichibengops, which literally translates to Scarface.

”Scarface” is a New Species of Pre-Mammal Ancient Relative

According to a press release from the The Field Museum in Chicago, the public can now say hello to our little friend: Scarface, a new species of a prehistoric mammal relative.

The researchers discovered the new animal species by a unique groove on the upper jaw. In a nod to the animal’s origins in Zambia, they named the animal Ichibengops, which is a combination of the Bemba word ichibenga (which means scar) and the Greek suffix ops (which, if you guessed correctly, means face).

While the researchers and media have dubbed the fossil by its informal name of Scarface, the connotations to the Al Pacino movie from the 80s doesn’t just end with the moniker. Both the movie and the prehistoric animal have a history of violence and drug use, albeit the latter for the animal was seen mostly in its venomous bite.

New Species Of Venomous Mammals Survived Largest Mass Extinction

The researchers believe Scarface may have had a deadly bite. Due to grooves above its teeth, the scientists concluded it could have been one of the few pre-mammal species that could transmit venom when they take a nibble of an animal.

Venomousness is so rare in ancient mammals and even modern mammals that only a few now still produce venom. One of these is the odd-looking platypus, but also a few species of shrews carry a toxic set of chompers.

Though a venomous bite may sound scary, the now-extinct animal is believed to be the size of a modern-day dachshund, AKA weiner dogs. So, though the name implies a hardcore gangster and the bite could very possibly kill its prey, the creature needed all the weapons at its disposal thanks to its relatively tiny size.

Scientists from the University of Washington and the Burke Museum, as well as the University of Utah assisted the Field Museum scientists in publishing their findings and the species description in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Paleontologists Say New Species “Scarface” Can Teach Us About Evolution and Extinction

The Ichibengops was a part of the suborder Therocephalia, a large group of mammal-like relatives that lived about 255 million years ago. They made a good evolutionary run, being one of the lucky few species that survived the Permian-Triassic extinction, otherwise known as the biggest mass extinction event in the history of the world. However, competition with reptiles and climate change may have done them in somewhere between 247 to 237 million years ago.

The discovery of the new animal is exciting for the field of paleomammalogy as it can provide a better picture in the evolutionary puzzle of our pre-mammal ancestors.

Kenneth Angielczyk, the Field Museum’s associate curator of paleomammalogy, believes that researching these ancient relatives of mammals will lead us to apply the lessons to the latest mass extinction event.

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