Bulgaria would be the first home of the Panda, but 6 million years ago
The perseverance of Nikolai Spassov, paleontologist of the Bulgarian National Museum of Natural History. While rummaging through the fossil collections years ago, he came across two blackened teeth with a vague handwritten label – the word Guredjia – affixed in the late 1970s by one of his predecessors, Ivan Nikolov.
Guredjia was the ancient name of a village in northwestern Bulgaria, now Ognyanovo. There, the canine and the molar had been unearthed in a coal deposit in the northern foothills of the Sredna Gora mountains. Then, by comparing them with those of bears of the Miocene, Spassov understood to be dealing with an unknown species: a cousin of China’s giant panda. Almost as big. But not so close that it could be its ancestor. In homage to his predecessor, he named it Agriarctos Nikolovi.
From the study of the teeth, Spassov also deduced that the region was a wetland where the Bulgarian panda did not eat bamboo – it did not have such a hard tooth – but soft grass. And that it had become vegetarian because it could not compete with other ursids for meat…