Think of all of the modern day animals you know that have existed since dinosaurs roamed the earth. You’re probably thinking sharks, crocodiles, maybe some species of birds, right? What if we told you that dogs can be added to this list.
A doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania has identified a new species of fossil believed to belong to the ancestors of our four-legged friends. During its lifetime 12 million years ago, this newly discovered species of dog would have roamed the coast of eastern North America. For all those dinosaur buffs out there, you are correct in thinking this would have been the same time that species such as the megalodon swam in the oceans.
This new species, named Cynarctus wangi, (click here for pic) was a coyote-sized dog belonging to their extinct Borophaginae subfamily known for their powerful jaws and broad teeth. The graduate student believes that these prehistoric dogs would have acted similarly to hyenas today.
This fossilized pup may have acted like a hyena, but its eating habits are more similar to an animal you wouldn’t want to keep as a pet: a bear. Despite its strong jaws, the Cynarctus wangi would not have had a completely meat-based diet. The fossils teeth suggest that it would have supplemented meat with plants and insects similar to the eating habits of bears.
Unfortunately, it is believed that the Cynarctus wangi was outcompeted for resources by other descendants of modern canines such as the wolves, coyotes, and foxes.
What’s so exciting about the discovery of this prehistoric pup is that it helps us to understand the ecosystem of Eastern North American 12 to 13 million years ago.
So there you have it, another sneak peek into the history of our favorite furry companions!
H/t to Science Daily