Dubbed Kretzoiarctos beatrix, the 11-million-year-old species was previously named Agriarctos beatrix based on a few fossil teeth found at a paleontological site near Zaragoza, Spain. Agriarctos is an extinct genus of European bear and a possible panda ancestor that lived eight to nine million years ago.
Earlier this year, scientists found a piece of A. beatrix‘s jaw, allowing them to compare it with that of another ancient Agriarctos bear from Hungary. In doing so, the team determined that A. beatrix is actually its own genus, which they called Kretzoiarctos.
The newly namedÂ K. beatrix pushes back the origin of giant pandas by a few million years, making it the oldest recorded giant panda relative, said study leader Juan Abella, a paleobiologist at the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales in Madrid, Spain.