The ancient dog would have roamed the East Coast of the United States millions of years ago.
A fossilized dog specimen that was uncovered in Maryland has been revealed to be a new extinct species of “bone-crushing” dogs.
The fossils are 12 million years old and belong to a species called Cynarctus wangi, a type of dog named as “bone-crushing dogs” because of their powerful jaws and teeth, according to a University of Pennsylvania statement.
The species probably acted like coyotes or hyenas, scavenging along the Atlantic coast of North America, and although it was carnivorous, the broadness of its teeth indicates that it probably ate whatever it could find, including plants and insects.
The study was published in the Journal of Paleontology. An amateur fossil collector in Maryland found the species. Experts think that Cynarctus wangi may have lived alongside ancient pigs, a prehistoric horse, and an elephent-like creature.
It’s an exciting find for scientists as it reveals more of what the ecosystem looked like in this region 12 to 13 million years ago.
“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.”