Dogs Evolved As Hunters Due To Climate Change

Posted: Aug 19 2015, 6:04am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

Dogs Evolved as Hunters due to Climate Change
Two early dogs, Hesperocyon, left and the later Sunkahetanka, were both ambush-style predators. As climate changes transformed their habitat, dogs evolved pursuit hunting styles and forelimb anatomy to match. CREDIT: Mauricio Anton
  • Early dogs evolved as hunters due to climate change!

A new study conducted on North American dog fossils 40 million years ago indicates climate change turned dogs into predators.

A new study on the evolution of dogs was published recently in Nature Communications. The study is based upon North American dog fossils. The fossils are believed to be 40 million years old. The study suggests dogs evolved as predators as a result of climate change.

The findings suggest predators may be affected climate and habitats just as much as herbivores. The lead author of the study is Borja Figueirido, a former Brown Fulbright postdoctoral researcher. Figueirido is currently a professor at the Universidad de Málaga in Spain.

"It's reinforcing the idea that predators may be as directly sensitive to climate and habitat as herbivores," said Christine Janis, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Brown University, who worked with lead author Borja Figueirido. "Although this seems logical, it hadn't been demonstrated before."

Dogs are supposed to be native to North America. 40 million years ago the climate in North America was considered to be warm with ample woods. The dog species at the time were very small animals. The dogs today are larger. Early dogs did not have specialized forelimbs for running or mainly hunting.

The study suggests as the climate in North America started cooling considerably dogs evolved. The Rocky Mountains has formed and forests turned into grasslands. At the same time dogs were evolving into predators. The evolution occurred over a period of 40 to 2 million years.

The researchers examined elbows and teeth of dog fossils from the American Museum of Natural History in New York. 32 dog species were examined for patterns in bones. The findings suggest similarities between early dogs and dogs and even wolves of today. The paws of the dogs changed substantially due to evolution. The teeth of dogs also became more durable to tear and chew their prey.

The study published in journal Nature Communications.

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