Fossil of New Bone-Crushing Dog Species Discovered in Maryland

Posted on May 14, 2016

Cynarctus wangi bone-crushing dog

Scientists have found the fossil of a previously unknown species of bone-crushing dogs in Maryland. The fossil was discovered by a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania. It belongs to an extinct family of bone-crushing dogs called Borophaginae.

The new species has been named Cynarctus wangi. The name honors Xiaoming Wang, curator at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and a renowned expert on mammalian carnivores.

The Borophagine bone-crushing dogs were named for their powerful jaws and broad teeth. They were widespread and diverse in North America from around 30 million to about 10 million years ago. The last members went extinct around 2 million years ago during the late Pliocene. C. wangi represents one of the last surviving borophagines. The researchers say it was probably outcompeted by ancestors of some of the canines living today. The scientists say C. wangi probably plants and insects in addition to meat.

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, says in a statement, "Based on its teeth, probably only about a third of its diet would have been meat. It would have supplemented that by eating plants or insects, living more like a mini-bear than like a dog."

A research paper on the ancient dog was published here in the Journal of Paleontology.

Photo: Illustration of Cynarctus from "Dogs, Their Fossil Relatives and Evolutionary History." Reprinted and used with permission of the publisher and Mauricio Antón, author of the illustration and copyright owner.