Animals never have to deal with table manners. They can proudly chew with their mouths open, slurp and burp like beer-guzzling uncles during the Super Bowl and no one throws an etiquette book in their stained, embarrassed faces.
Turns out an extinct mammal discovered by paleontologists from Southern Methodist University and the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, Texas, had an especially odd way of eating that would definitely get it kicked out of a four-star restaurant.
A hippo-like creature called Desmostylians (Ounalashkastylus tomidai) that lived until approximately 10 million years ago sucked up its food like the business end of a vacuum cleaner. Researchers published a study about the newly discovered genus and species on Thursday in the journal Historical Biology.
Paleontologists discovered the fossils of this mammal in Unalaska's Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian islands off the coast of Alaska. They came to their conclusion about its eating habits based on its unique set of column-shaped teeth, its tusks and the large muscles in its neck and throat used for "employing suction during feeding, most likely on marine and coastal plants," according to the study's abstract.
"The new animal -- when compared to one of a different species from Japan -- made us realize that desmos do not chew like any other animal," SMU vertebrate paleontologist Louis L. Jacobs said in a statement. "They clench their teeth, root up plants and suck them in."
Jacobs also noted that they swam like polar bears but walked rather slow and clumsily, much like a modern sloth. So basically Ounalashkastylus tomidai aspires to be every guy in a fraternity who looked at Ogre from "Revenge of the Nerds" as a role model.
Desmostylians are also relative newcomers to existence compared with other prehistoric species that went extinct. They first appeared around 33 million years ago and only lasted for around 23 million years.
Even though this new genus didn't last very long, the discovery of this new creature shows it did spawn a wider range of species than paleontologists previously thought, says Perot Museum paleontologist Anthony Fiorillo.
"Our new study shows that though this group of strange and extinct mammals was short-lived, it was a successful group with greater biodiversity than had been previously realized," Fiorillo said in the statement.
Desmostylians weren't the only prehistoric creatures to employ such a unique eating technique. Paleontologists discovered from fossils collected in China in 2011 that a marine reptile called the Shastasaurus (not affiliated with the soft drink makers National Beverage Corp. as far as we know) used suction to pull sea creatures into its short, toothless mouth, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
It also probably didn't say "excuse me" when it belched during dinner.