AUSTIN (KXAN) — In Texas, beavers are highly associated with Buc-ee’s, the nation’s second-favorite gas station chain and truly a marvel for visitors passing through the Lone Star State.
Now, the chain can be credited for the name of a new species of ancient beaver that was rediscovered by researchers in The University of Texas Austin’s fossil collections, according to a press release from UT.
The beaver was called Anchitheriomys buceei, or “A. buceei” for short.
Steve May, a research associate at the UT Jackson School of Geosciences, said he was inspired by the beaver’s Texas connection and a “chance encounter” with a Buc-ee’s billboard.
The UT release said May was driving down a highway in 2020 and spotted a Buc-ee’s billboard that said “This is Beaver Country,” and it reminded him of the Texas beaver fossils he’d been studying at UT’s Texas Vertebrate Paleontology Collections.
“I thought, ‘Yeah, it is beaver country, and it has been for millions of years,’” May said.
A. buceei lived in Texas about 15 million years ago, according to the release.
The skull was originally collected by a team of Texas paleontologists in 1941, according to the release. One of them, Curtis Hesse — a museum curator at Texas A&M University — said in notes that he intended to name it a new species.
Hesse died in 1945 before he could complete his study and publish his findings. Eighty years later, May and Director of the Texas Vertebrate Paleontology Collections Matthew Brown — with the help of new technology and a better understanding of the fossil record of beavers — picked up where Hesse left off.
May is the lead author of the paper that describes A. buceei along with other species of fossil beavers published in the journal Palaeontologia Electronica.