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Scientist Named An Ancient Beaver After Buc-ee’s

The fossil sat in the lab for decades, nameless
Photo: stock_photo_world | Shutterstock

Buc-ee’s is a treasure for all Texans — including paleontologists, too.

A researcher from the University of Texas at Austin rediscovered a beaver that was sitting in the lab since 1941 and named it after a famous Texas gas station, according to KHOU11.

The beaver was named Anchitheriomys buceei, for short “A. buceei” by Steve May, a researcher from UT Austin. May got the inspiration for the name when he saw the billboard of Buc-ee’s saying, “This is beaver country” back in May 2020. 

“I thought, ‘Yeah, it is a beaver country, and it has been for millions of years,’” he said.

May describes a newly-discovered beaver in his paper published in the Palaeontologia Electronica. A. buceei existed in Texas around 15 million years ago — and is thought to be almost the same except in size. According to Matthew Brown, director of the Jackson School’s vertebrate paleontology collections, the ancient beaver weighed around 57 pounds. Compared to modern beavers which weigh about 44 pounds, it was 30% bigger.

A. buceei’s skull was found in the East Texas hamlet of Burkeville by a team of Texas A&M University paleontologists in 1941. One paleontologist, Curtis Hesse, believed the skull was from an unidentified creature. He tried to name it but he passed before doing so. After that, the skull was forgotten and stayed in A&M’s collection until it was moved to UT in the 1980s. 

It was 40 years later that the skull caught May’s eye. “I was just going through cabinets one day, looking at specimens,” he says. “I opened a drawer and there was this very interesting-looking skull, and it just really struck me as, ‘Wow, that’s a really interesting fossil. I wonder what it is.’”

“New discoveries in the field capture lots of attention, but equally as valuable are the discoveries made in existing museum collections,” Brown said. “We know that these opportunities are littered throughout the drawers in these cabinets.”

Here’s an article about World-Biggest Buc-ee’s on Local Profile if you are interested.