Mysterious 'hypercarnivore' that hunted RHINOS prowled plains of California 40million years ago

EXPERTS have identified a new sabre-tooth predator that may have had a taste for rhinos more than 40million years ago.

The early meat-eating beast is part of a mysterious group of animals called Machaeroidines which scientists know little about.

And it's all thanks to a fossil found by a 12-year-old in California way back in 1988.

A team were able to study the lower jaw and teeth, as well as sophisticated 3D-modeling, to work out its origin.

The creature would have lurked through the rainforest with "big, slicing, scissoring teeth" perfect for munching on fresh meat.

"We know so little about Machaeroidines, so every new discovery greatly expands our picture of them," explained Dr Shawn Zack, from the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

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"This relatively complete, well-preserved Diegoaelurus fossil is especially useful because the teeth let us infer the diet and start to understand how Machaeroidines are related to each other."

Machaeroidines are the oldest known sabre-toothed mammalian carnivores scientists are aware of.

But they're so elusive that only 14 specimens have been uncovered before now.

It was a beast that absolutely loved meat, which formed over 70% of its diet.

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Today, they're completely extinct of course and are not closely related to living carnivores.

The full name scientists have given the creature is a bit of a mouthful: Diegoaelurus vanvalkenburghae.

But there's meaning behind it – it's a blend of several tributes, including San Diego County where it was found, and scientist Blaire Van Valkenburgh, whose work on the evolution of carnivores influenced their research.

The paper was published in the PeerJ journal.

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