This strange creature could help scientists learn more about what the ecosystem was like 12 million years ago.
Scientists have discovered a dog specimen in Maryland that could be an entirely new species of “bone-crushing” dogs.
The 12-million-year-old fossils belong to Cynarctus wangi, a dog with incredibly powerful jaws and broad teeth that suggests it was an omnivore, eating not only animals but also plants and insects, according to a University of Pennsylvania statement.
It’s a fascinating discovery that could shed more light on what the ancient U.S. East Coast ecosystem looked like. Scientists think this dog acted like a coyote or hyena, scavenging along the Atlantic Coast of North America, eating whatever it could find.
The findings, published in the Journal of Paleontology, are based on fossils discovered by an amateur collector in Maryland. Cynarctus wagni probably lived with ancient pigs, horses, and even an elephant-like creature — now long since gone from the continent.
“Most fossils known from this time period represent marine animals, who become fossilized more easily than animals on land,” 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, said in the statement. “It is quite rare we find fossils from land animals in this region during this time, but each one provides important information for what life was like then.”
The statement added that when Jasinski and a colleague first examined the specimen, they decided it was a known species of borophagine dog.
“But when they compared features of the occlusal surfaces, where the top and bottom teeth meet, of the previously known and the new specimens, they found notable differences,” the statement noted. “They concluded that the specimen represented a distinct species new to science.”