The evolution of North American dogs shows that evolution can be a direct consequence of climate change, and is not always associated with an “arms race” between ancient dogs and their prey.
Researchers studied fossil elbows and teeth of 32 species of dogs from 40 million years to two million years ago, the same period when climate changed the North American landscape from wooded forests to open grasslands.
The elbows, an indicator of what carnivores are doing with their forearms, lost their range of motion and ancient dogs lost the ability to grapple with their food but became specialized for distance running and endurance. The qualities that would be necessary to capture prey by hiding under folliage and pouncing evolved to a capacity to chase prey over open grasslands.
Original research paper published in Nature Communications on August 18, 2015.
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