It’s quite possible that a shifting climate millions of years ago helped make dogs what they are today. A recent study published in Nature Communications has shed light on the consequences of climate change on dogs.
Researchers report that based on the analysis of wolf and dog remains dating back to 40 million years ago, it’s likely that the animals developed their unique approach to hunting in response to changes in their habitat.
Dogs are considered to be native of North America, a place believed to be full of forests and where the climate was warm about 40 million years ago.
The fossils might indicate some consequences of climate change on dogs, as they appear to have looked a more different than the dogs we see today. They are believed to have resembled mongooses back then. Researchers say that the fossils also make them believe that dogs used to be smaller in size. The forelimbs don’t resemble ones made to run, but rather made for grabbing prey, as they seem more flexible.
“The elbow is a really good proxy for what carnivores are doing with their forelimbs, which tells their entire locomotion repertoire,” said Christine Janis, study author and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Brown University. “It’s reinforcing the idea that predators may be as directly sensitive to climate and habitat as herbivores” she added.
Cats have elbows that allow their front paws to swivel for grabbing and wrestling prey. Dogs were made the same way once, but then developed a structure that always pointed downwards and specialized for endurance running. Their teeth also evolved to become tougher and stronger in order to deal with the surface of the grasslands on which they attacked their prey.
The results of this new study contradict the previous belief that predators evolved just because their prey has changed. As the research shows, climate and habitat have also played a major role in that.
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