The endangered giant panda has Spanish ties, geologists have found. Fossilized remains of the bear's ancient relative, Agriarctos beatrix, suggest that the newly discovered species roamed the Zaragoza province in Spain about 11 million years ago.
"This kind of bear was small, even smaller than the Malayan sun bear, the smallest found today," paleobiologist Juan Abella of the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, who was part of the research team behind this discovery, said in a written statement.
Agriarctos beatrix would not have weighed more than 60 kilograms (about 130 pounds), the researchers said (sun bears can reach about 150 pounds). The panda relative would have had a dark coat with white patches in the chest, around the eyes, and possibly near the tail.
As a forest dweller, Agriarctos beatrix ate fruits and vegetables, similar to the sun bear. While the cause of extinction for this primitive bear remains undetermined, it faced competition from similar and larger species, Abella said.
Agriarctos beatrix isn't the only tiny relative to the giant panda. Ailuropoda microta, sometimes called the dwarf or pygmy panda, roamed parts of China about two million years ago.
Abella's research team published its findings in 2011 in the journal Estudios Geologicos.
This North American bird, which stood over 8 feet tall, would have had an enormous, axe-like beak.
This heavily-armored predator had the second most powerful bite of any fish.
The hornless rhinoceros-like creatures of this genus were the largest land mammals of all time.
Giant ground sloths of this genus were about the size of today's elephants. The megatherium only went extinct around 10,000 years ago (right around the time when humans started farming), and smaller relatives may have survived as late as the 16th century!
Richard Owen, director of London's Museum of Natural History, stands next to the largest of all moa. Moa, which originated in New Zealand, were flightless, and some were even wingless.
The Argentavis magnificens, an early relative of the Andean Condor, was the largest flying bird ever discovered.
These creatures, the largest marsupials that ever lived, roamed Australia. Some scientists have suggested that stories of the supernatural 'bunyip' creature in Aboriginal folklore could be based on diprotodonts.
These distant relatives of modern elephants had an imposing appearance, with strange, downward-curving tusks and heights of up to 16 feet at the shoulder.
The fearsome Liopleuredon, right, had a jaw nearly ten feet long. The Leedsichthys, left, was a bony fish that may have been even larger than it looked; some estimates put its maximum length at 53 feet. <strong>Correction</strong>: <em>An earlier version of this slide had the positions of the Liopleuredon and Leedsichthys reversed</em>.