Researchers have conducted a study which offers insight into how dog evolution was influenced by climate changes. It seems that canids have changed their hunting practices because of weather changes. The paper was published in the journal Nature Communications.
The research team analyzed the joint structure of canids an animal family which includes foxes, wolves and dogs. Ecology and geology expert Borja Figueirido from Universidad de Málaga in Spain said that they decided to conduct this research because most of the previous studies that analyzed how mammals are affected by climate change concentrated on herbivore not on carnivores.
The scientists analyzed fossils of canids that still live nowadays and canids that lived around 37 million years ago. They wanted to find out how habitat shift caused by wider grasslands in North America influenced dog evolution and the evolution of other canids. The research team used 32 species of canids and analyzed their teeth and elbows. They chose to look at this because the shape of the elbow is an indicator of predatory behavior among carnivores and it indicates the approximate range of forearm motion.
It was remarked that tigers and other cat species are predators that use elbows and forelimbs to catch their prey. On the other hand canids chase the prey over long distances. According to the research pounce pursuit predators that are after small prey appeared around seven million years ago. Pursuit and endurance predators like canids chase prey over a long distance and they appeared around two million year ago in arid and cooler conditions.
Because of the cooler and dryer conditions the forests got thinner and the plains bigger. Wild dogs evolved to be specialized in long distance running. They had less flexibility but more support. In order to deal with dry and tough pelts their teeth became more durable.
Professor Figueirido explained:
More recent fossils show what seems to be a different predation adaptation. Their forelimbs are stiffer and don’t move around as much, so they are not good for grappling, but they are good for short (pounce-pursuit) and long-distance sprinting to capture prey.”
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