UT researchers name ancient beaver fossil after Buc-ee's
AUSTIN, Texas - The iconic Buc-ee’s beaver is no longer just a cartoon mascot. The popular rest stop chain is now lending its name to a newly-discovered beaver species.
It all began in North Austin, at the University of Texas’ Jackson School Museum of Earth History, where a research associate made a rare discovery.
"When you find those needles in a haystack it can be a lot of fun," said Matthew Brown, director of the museum’s vertebrate paleontology collection.
That collection includes about a million fossils spanning hundreds of millions of years, but, while researchers were going through the collection recently, one skull in particular caught the eye of project lead Steve May.
"He started digging into the history, and he realized it was a new species of beaver, and it had never been published," said Brown.
A partial skull fossil from the ancient beaver Anchitheriomys buceei (on right) alongside a skull reconstruction. (UT Jackson School of Geosciences / Matthew Brown)
Based on the fossil, Brown says the team determined the species is extinct, but in its day it lived on the Texas Coastal Plain and was actually 30% bigger than modern-day beavers—a Texas-sized rodent, you might say.
But what to name it?
"Steve was driving back from the field and saw a [Buc-ee’s] billboard that said ‘This is Beaver Country’. And that just lit up in his head. It’s been beaver country for 22 million years," said Brown.
So, they landed on "Anchitheriomys buccei, " or "A. buccei" for short.
A graphic comparing the size of Anchitheriomys buceei with an average North American Beaver and an average man in the United States. (UT Jackson School of Geosciences/ National Center for Health Statistics/ USDA Forest Service)
"We’re excited about it," said Buc-ee’s general counsel Jeff Nadalo.
Nadalo says the company was on board with the namesake beaver right away.
"Buc-ee the Beaver has been our mascot since 1982," said Nadalo. "And obviously we're very proud of the fact that they thought of Buc-ee’s when it came to naming this."
Matthew Brown (left) and Steve May in the vertebrate paleontology collections at the Jackson School of Geosciences. Brown, the director of the collections, holds a skull from a modern North American Beaver. May, a research associate, holds a skull fr (UT Jackson School of Geosciences)
Customers we spoke to at the Buc-ee’s in Bastrop agree.
"Oh wow, that’s great. That’s great. It’s perfect," said customer Kathy Dodd.
"I can’t think of anything more appropriate," said David Clark.
Buc-ee’s says they’re even working on a T-shirt featuring the newly-named beaver.