MessageToEagle.com – About 12 million years ago a hyena-like canine, with massive jaws capable of crushing bone roamed the coast of eastern North America. It was during a period when massive sharks like megalodon swam in the oceans.
Fossils of this ancient dog have just been discovered in Maryland. This coyote-sized dog, named Cynarctus wangi, was a member of the extinct subfamily Borophaginae, commonly known as bone-crushing dogs because of their powerful jaws and broad teeth.
“In this respect they are believed to have behaved in a similar way to hyenas today,” said the study’s lead author, Steven E. Jasinski, a student in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science in Penn’s School of Arts & Sciences and acting curator of paleontology and geology at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg.
The discovery made by University of Pennsylvania doctoral student is quite unique as most fossils known from this time period represent marine animals. The finding is significant as fossils from land animals in this region during this time give us an insight into what kind of life was present on our planet so long ago.
The 12 million-year-old dog looks like it might be a distant relative descended from the previously known borophagine. Borophagine dogs were widespread and diverse in North America from around 30 million to about 10 million years ago. The last members went extinct around 2 millions of years ago during the late Pliocene. C. wangir epresents one of the last surviving borophagines and was likely outcompeted by ancestors of some of the canines living today: wolves, coyotes and foxes.
Despite its strong jaws, the researchers believe C. wangi wouldn’t have been wholly reliant on meat to sustain itself.
“Based on its teeth, probably only about a third of its diet would have been meat,” Jasinski said. “It would have supplemented that by eating plants or insects, living more like a mini-bear than like a dog.”