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英文解釈の思考プロセス 第164回


今回の題材は、2017年1月25日付の The New York Times 紙に掲載されたニューズレポート、6 Million Years Ago, Otters the size of Wolves Roamed China’s Wetlands  ”6百万年前、オオカミと同じ大きさのカワウソが中国の湿地帯を闊歩していました”  です。既に絶滅した巨大カワウソに関する最新の研究成果を伝えるニューズレポートです。全文の和訳はオリジナルの次にあります。


6 Million Years Ago, Otters the Size of Wolves Roamed China’s Wetlands





An artist’s rendering of Siamogale melilutra, an extinct otter the size of a wolf. Credit Mauricio Antón

Cute, cuddly and covered in soft brown fur, otters look like teddy bears that can swim. But travel back six million years to the wetlands of southwestern China, and there roamed an ancient relative to these creatures that was more fearsome than adorable.

Known as Siamogale melilutra, this newly discovered extinct otter was about the size of a wolf and had strong-looking jaws. A team of scientists from China and the United States described the new species based on a cranium, a mandible and some teeth they found in a coal mine.

“It’s huge, it’s bigger than anything I’ve ever seen in terms of otters,” said Denise Su, the curator and head of paleobotany and paleoecology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and an author of the paper that appeared Sunday in The Journal of Systematic Paleontology.

Many otters today, like the marine otter or North American river otter, are about the size of a small dog. Some, like the sea otter or giant river otter, can grow to more than 75 pounds. But none are as large as S. melilutra was; the team thinks the otter measured about six feet long from snout to the tip of the tail and weighed about 110 pounds.

The key to figuring out how big the extinct otter was came from the fossil of its cantaloupe-size cranium. But when the team found the skull, special steps had to be taken to unlock its secrets.



The flattened fossilized cranium of an ancient extinct otter. Credit Xiaoming Wang

“It was squashed flat like a pancake because of the fossilization process,” Dr. Su said. “But we were lucky because it just sat there.”

She said all the pieces were still there, the breaks were clean and the edges fit well with each other, so essentially what they had was a deflated cranium. To “inflate” it, they performed a CT scan on the fossil and then digitally reconstructed it.

With their visualization of the head, they could extrapolate how big the body was by comparing its proportions with that of modern otters.



A digital reconstruction of a flattened cranium belonging to an extinct otter. Credit Stuart White

The researchers aren’t sure why the otter was so big. But they noticed during their examination that its teeth may have been useful for crushing prey. Xiaoming Wang, curator and head of vertebrate paleontology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and lead author of the study, thinks it may have something to do with the large mollusks that shared its swamp.

He speculated that the otter might have mostly preyed on the clams and shellfish, rather than on the large land animals that lived in the area. Being large would have been evolutionarily advantageous for a creature that had to crush through hard shells for food. In the future the team will test how powerful the otter’s jaws were, hoping to figure out whether the beasts were strong enough to break the large shells.

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< 全文和訳例 >


 Siamogale melilutra として知られている、この新たに発見された既に絶滅したカワウソは、現在のオオカミ程の大きさで強力そうな顎を持っていました。中国とアメリカの研究者のティームは、彼らが炭鉱で発見した頭蓋骨、下あごの骨、そしていくつかの歯の骨に基づいて、その新たな種としてのカワウソの特徴を描写しました。

”それは巨大で、イタチ科カワウソ属という観点からは、私がこれまでに目にした如何なる生物よりも大きいのです。”  とクリーブランド自然史博物館の学芸員で化石植物学と古生態学部門の責任者、そして今週の日曜日(1月22日)に The Journal of Systematic Paleontology に掲載された論文の著者であるデニーズ・スー氏は言いました。

ミナミウミカワウソ(marine otter)、あるいはカナダカワウソ(North American river otter)の様な現存しているカワウソは、概ね小型犬程度の大きさです。ラッコ(sea otter) 、又はオオカワウソ(giant river otter)の様ないくつかの種は、75ポンド(約34キロ)以上に成長することがあります。しかし、いずれも Siamogale melilutra 程大きくはありません;研究ティームは、鼻先から尻尾まで約6フィート(約183センチ)の大きさで、体重は約110ポンド(約50キロ)あったと考えています。







To be continued.