Extinct Beardogs Get a More Prominent Place in the Carnivore Family Tree

first_img New Species of Giant Flying Reptile Identified By ScientistsGiant Prehistoric Lion Fossil Discovered in Museum Drawer Stay on target You know about bears, and you know about dogs, but what about beardogs? They went extinct millions of years ago, but scientist are just now figuring out where these creatures fit in the evolutionary history of life on Earth. A new analysis of beardog fossils has resulted in the reclassification several animals, which alters our understanding of how they are related to living carnivores.Beardogs, or amphicyonids, were members of several species of quadrupedal carnivorous mammals that went extinct 37 million years ago. However, they are members of the same evolutionary line as bears, wolves, weasels, foxes, and the modern domesticated dog. Beardogs ranged in size from just a few pounds (like a Chihuahua) to more than 1,000 pounds (like a  very large polar bear). See the size comparison below. The newly reclassified beardogs are on the small end of the scale, but they’re important to our understanding of all related animals because they were some of the first species to evolve.Susumu Tomiya, a researcher at the Field Museum in Chicago, noticed that two of the jaw fragments attributed to known beardog species had some important morphological differences. Both jaws featured teeth with flat surfaces, which would have made them suited for crushing rather than only ripping and tearing like a pure carnivore. They were much more like the larger beardogs that evolved later. Both animals would have gone extinct around 37 million years ago.Tomiya used a CT scan to reconstruct the animal’s skull from the remaining fragments and found that the anatomical features didn’t match the previous identification. Thus, the two specimens were given new names, Gustafsonia cognita and Angelacrtocyon australis. This helps clarify how beardogs evolved and where. These animals were native to what is today the southern US, indicating this region was more important to beardog evolution than previously thought. This work could help researchers studying the evolution of other carnivores as well.last_img

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