Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – A team from the University of Pennsylvania has discovered a new species of an ancient dog that lived nearly 12 million years ago.

Because of the characteristics of the ancient’s dog jaw, scientists have nicknamed the species “bone crusher.” According to the study, this species would have behaved like modern hyenas do.

Scientists discovered the fossils of an ancient dog species
Illustration of the ancient dog species nicknamed bone crusher. Credit: Science Daily

The dog lived in the Miocene period and belongs to the Bone crusher family, which is a species of dog that became extinct almost 12 million years ago. This species shared the world with massive sharks called megalodon and other species.

A new discovery of dog’s evolution

Despite being nicknamed bone crushers, this ancient species of dogs are called Cynarctus Wangi. The name comes from a curator named Xiaoming Wang from the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles that specializes in mammalian carnivores.

The fossils were found by an amateur collector in the Choptank Formation near Maryland’s Calvert Cliffs. The first investigation was held by the Smithsonian Institution.

The lead author of the study is Steven E. Jasinski who is a student in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science at Pennsylvania School, with the job of a paleontology curator at the State Museum of Pennsylvania.

Jasinski along with his colleague Steven Wallace, a professor at East Tennessee University and curator of the East Tennessee State U. National Museum, discovered that the newly found species did not belong to the marylandica species as they first thought. This ancient dog belonged to a new species for the scientific world.

The discovery was made when the teammates compared the jaw of the animal with the marylandica species. When looking into the occlusal surfaces (top and bottom teeth meet up), they found differences that concluded it wasn’t the same species.

Marylandica ancient dogs belong to the borophaginae family. This species was located around North America from 30 million years to 10 million years ago and extinguishing around 2 million years ago.

Although Cynarctus Wangi has very strong jaws, researchers assure that most of the ancient dog’s diet was based on plants and insects.

“Based on its teeth, probably about a third of its diet would have been meat. It would have supplemented that by eating plants and insects. Living more like a mini-bear than like a dog,” said Jasinski in the research published at the Journal Paleontology.

This species belongs to the borophagines that last ruled the earth in the Pliocene period and it has been compared to modern days wolves and coyotes. The discovery brings a new light to the evolution of ancient dogs, especially the location researchers found the fossils.

“Most fossils known from this period represent marine animals. It is quite rare we find fossils from land animals in this region during this time, but each one provided important information for what life was like then,” Jasinski said.

Source: GeoScience World