Nav: Home

Skull scans tell tale of how world's first dogs caught their prey

January 11, 2019

Analysis of the skulls of lions, wolves and hyenas has helped scientists uncover how prehistoric dogs hunted 40 million years ago.

A study has revealed that the first species of dog - called Hesperocyon gregarius - pounced on its prey in the same way that many species, including foxes and coyotes, do today.

The findings also show that the largest dog species ever to live - known as Epicyon haydeni - hunted in a similar way. The animals - which lived from 16 until seven million years ago - could grow to the size of a grizzly bear.

Comparisons between computerised scans of fossils and modern animals have shed light on the hunting methods used by prehistoric members of a group of mammals known as carnivorans. These include modern-day foxes, wolves, cougars and leopards.

Scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh and Vienna used the scans to create digital models of the inner ears of 36 types of carnivoran, including six extinct species.

The team found that the size of three bony canals in the inner ear - the organ that controls balance and hearing - changed over millions of years as animals adopted different hunting styles.

Faster predators - such as cheetahs, lions and wolves - developed large ear canals that enable them to keep their head and vision stable while ambushing or chasing prey at speed, the team says.

Their findings reveal that inner ear structure indicates whether a species descended from dog-like animals or belongs to one of four families of animals resembling cats. A distinctive angle between two parts of the inner ear is much larger in dog-like animals, the team found.

The study is based on research carried out by Julia Schwab, a current PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, during her MSc studies at the University of Vienna, Austria. It is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Ms Schwab, based in the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences, said: "For me, the inner ear is the most interesting organ in the body, as it offers amazing insights into ancient animals and how they lived. The first dog and the largest-ever dog are such fascinating specimens to study, as nothing like them exists in the world today."
-end-


University of Edinburgh

Related Wolves Articles:

Sensitivity to inequity is in wolves' and dogs' blood
Not only dogs but also wolves react to inequity -- similar to humans or primates.
Study doesn't support theory red and eastern wolves are recent hybrids, researchers argue
A University of Idaho-led research team is calling into question a 2016 study that concluded eastern and red wolves are not distinct species, but rather recent hybrids of gray wolves and coyotes.
Wolves need space to roam to control expanding coyote populations
Wolves and other top predators need large ranges to be able to control smaller predators whose populations have expanded, according to a study appearing May 23 in Nature Communications.
Two in the pack: No changes for Isle Royale wolves
Researchers from Michigan Technological University have released the annual Winter Study detailing updates on the ecology of Isle Royale National Park.
The dangers of being a saber-toothed cat in Los Angeles 12,000 years ago
Large saber-toothed cats that roamed Los Angeles 12,000 years ago had many injuries to their shoulders and backbones that likely occurred when they were fighting with other large animals, UCLA biologists report.
Are wolves becoming domesticated again?
On landscapes around the world, environmental change is bringing people and large carnivores together -- but the union is not without its problems.
In harm's way: Wolves may not risk 'prey switching' say USU ecologists
Utah State University researchers report Yellowstone wolves seldom hunt bison, though plentiful, and instead pursue elk, a scarcer, yet safer, target.
The redomestication of wolves
Gray wolves provide an important case study for understanding ecosystem effects when apex predators reoccupy their former ranges.
Big-game jitters: Coyotes no match for wolves' hunting prowess
As wolf populations plummeted, the eastern coyote assumed the role of apex predator in forests along the Atlantic Coast.
Wolfing it down: Brown bears reduce wolf kill rates says USU ecologist
Researchers report the influence of predation on an ecosystem may depend on the composition of the predator community.

Related Wolves Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Don't Fear Math
Why do many of us hate, even fear math? Why are we convinced we're bad at it? This hour, TED speakers explore the myths we tell ourselves and how changing our approach can unlock the beauty of math. Guests include budgeting specialist Phylecia Jones, mathematician and educator Dan Finkel, math teacher Eddie Woo, educator Masha Gershman, and radio personality and eternal math nerd Adam Spencer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#517 Life in Plastic, Not Fantastic
Our modern lives run on plastic. It's in the computers and phones we use. It's in our clothing, it wraps our food. It surrounds us every day, and when we throw it out, it's devastating for the environment. This week we air a live show we recorded at the 2019 Advancement of Science meeting in Washington, D.C., where Bethany Brookshire sat down with three plastics researchers - Christina Simkanin, Chelsea Rochman, and Jennifer Provencher - and a live audience to discuss plastics in our oceans. Where they are, where they are going, and what they carry with them. Related links:...