“Despite their name, hyaenodonts are not closely related to hyenas,” Borths continued. “The name means they had hyena-like teeth, which is true. Like hyenas, hyaenodonts were meat eaters and some were bone crackers.”
What’s more, they found that M. nananubis belongs to a lineage of hyaenodonts called the teratodontines, which means “monstrous teeth.” Based on other fossils discovered at Locality 41, this carnivore lived alongside even larger hyaenodonts, such as the coyote-sized Brychotherium and the wolf-sized Akhnatenavus. Large snakes and crocodiles also existed at the site.
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“The environment they all lived in 34 million years ago was a marshy forest, reminiscent of parts of the Everglades or the Louisiana gulf coast, which makes sense because geologists hypothesize the coast was close to the site where these fossils were preserved,” Borths said.
He added that some localities at the site “include fossils of large fruits and trees, evidence this forested habitat would have also been appealing to our early primate relatives.”
It's little wonder that our early relatives tried to spend as much time as possible in trees, given the tasty food above ground and the hungry, blood-thirsty carnivores on the ground. The researchers said that some hyaenodonts did evolve to become tree-dwellling, which could have made life all the more interesting for our primate ancestors.