Friday, 14 August 2015

Cats drove the extinction of many ancient dog species

AUGUST 13, 2015

by John Hopton

In North America, the evolution of animals in the dog family was severely hampered by competition from those in the cat family, according to a new study reported by the University of Gothenburg.

Dogs originated in North America about 40 million of years ago and reached a maximum diversity around 22 million years ago, with cats arriving from Asia across the Bering land bridge around 18.5 million years ago.

The increased competition for food amongst the different carnivorous species had even more of an impact on canids (dogs, foxes, wolves etc.) than did climate change, according to an international team including scientists from the Universities of Gothenburg (Sweden), Sao Paulo (Brazil), and Lausanne (Switzerland), who analyzed over 2000 fossils.

Majority of dog species didn’t make it

"We usually expect climate changes to play an overwhelming role in the evolution of biodiversity. Instead, competition among different carnivore species proved to be even more important for canids" said lead author Daniele Silvestro at the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg.

As many as 40 canid species may have been lost, and today only 9 species exist in North America.

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