Modern Dog’s Evolutionary Journey Began With Climate Change

Reviewed by Stephanie Valente

September 21, 2015

Changing climates might have played a bigger role in dog evolution than previously imagined.


Nature Communications recently published a study citing that the mongoose-like little creatures dog came from adapted their hunting habits based on environmental changes.


That means canid species as early as 40 million years ago changed their hunting behaviors and patterns as their environment changed.


How did it happen?


The Washington Post outlines how it all went down: Ancient dogs were living in what’s now North America and were suited for a temperate, very wooded climate. Soon, the climate began to change rapidly. As the temperature grew warmer, wooded areas changed into grasslands.


What were the results?

Therefore, dog ancestors had to adapt. And that began with a change in their elbows. The adaptation allowed these dogs to rotate their elbows which made them predators that could chase down prey.


Dog ancestors were then able to endure longer distance runs for substantial periods. Along with a changing climate, the habitats were losing some of its heavy forestation, and so the type of hunting behavior adapted, too.


From The Washington Post, Ecology professor Christine Janis notes how a new habitat directly affected dog ancestors and hunting: “There’s no point in doing a dash and a pounce in a forest. They’ll smack into a tree.” With changing forests, dog ancestors were able to hunt differently, which led to a biological change: pivoting elbows.


Now that we’ve domesticated dogs, our pups don’t spend time fending for themselves outdoors, we might not be able to make climate change connections with the modern dog. But perhaps, we could make correlations for the wolf population.

H/t via The Washington Post

Featured image via Wiki Commons

Reviewed by Stephanie Valente

September 21, 2015