Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New fossils shed light on the origins of lions, tigers, and bears

Date:
January 6, 2014
Source:
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
Summary:
A new study discusses the origins of cats and dogs, as well as other carnivorous mammals like bears, seals, and weasels (taxonomically called "carnivoraformes"), and describes new specimens of one of the earliest of these primitive taxa.

This is a reconstruction of Dormaalcyon latouri.
Credit: Art by Charlène Letenneur (MNHN) and Pascale Golinvaux (RBINS).

New fossils from Belgium have shed light on the origin of some of the most well-known, and well-loved, modern mammals. Cats and dogs, as well as other carnivorous mammals (like bears, seals, and weasels), taxonomically called 'carnivoraformes', trace their ancestry to primitive carnivorous mammals dating back to 55 million years ago (the beginning of the time period called the Eocene). A study, published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, discusses the origins of this group and describes new specimens of one of the earliest of these primitive taxa.

The species, dubbed Dormaalocyon latouri, had previously been found at the Belgian locality of Dormaal (thus the name of the genus). New specimens found by lead author Floréal Solé and his colleagues, allow for a better characterization of the animal, and its placement in the evolutionary history of carnivores. "Its description allows better understanding of the origination, variability and ecology of the earliest carnivoraforms," says Solé.

The new specimens include over 250 teeth and ankle bones. More teeth allow for a description of the entire tooth row of Dormaalocyon, while previous finds only included two upper molars. The new finds even include the deciduous teeth (or 'baby teeth'). The fact that these teeth are very primitive looking, and from a very early time, implies that Dormaalocyon is close to the origin of carnivoraforms, and that this origin may have been in Europe.

The ankle bones suggest that Dormaalocyon was arboreal, living and moving through the trees. Previous reconstructions of the environment at Dormaal 55 million years ago inferred a warm, humid, and wooded area. This was a time soon after an event called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (or PETM). This extremely warm period affected the evolution of many mammal groups, including carnivoraforms. Dr. Solé believes that the fact that Dormaalocyon was arboreal, and that carnivoraforms made their way to North America around this time, "supports the existence of a continuous evergreen forest belt at high latitudes during the PETM."

Although close to the origin of carnivoraforms, the fossils suggest there were even more primitive species in the group in an earlier time period, the Paleocene. Says Solé, "The understanding of the origination of the carnivoraforms is important for reconstructing the adaptation of placental mammals to carnivorous diet. Therefore, Dormaalocyon provides information concerning the evolution of placental mammals after the disappearance of the largest dinosaurs (at the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event). Our study shows that the carnivoraforms were very diversified at the earliest Eocene, which allows hypothesizing that they were probably already diversified during the latest Paleocene." This means there are more fossils out there to be found that can answer the question of the origin of this beloved modern group.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Solé, F., R. Smith, T. Coillot, E. De Bast, T. Smith. Dental and Tarsal Anatomy of 'miacis' Latouri and a Phylogenetic Analysis of the Earliest Carnivoraforms (mammalia, Carnivoramorpha). Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 34(1): 1-21; 2014 [link]

Cite This Page:

Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. "New fossils shed light on the origins of lions, tigers, and bears." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140106160029.htm>.
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. (2014, January 6). New fossils shed light on the origins of lions, tigers, and bears. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140106160029.htm
Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. "New fossils shed light on the origins of lions, tigers, and bears." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140106160029.htm (accessed September 18, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Egypt Denies Claims Oldest Pyramid Damaged in Restoration

Egypt Denies Claims Oldest Pyramid Damaged in Restoration

AFP (Sep. 17, 2014) — Egypt's antiquities minister denied Tuesday claims that the Djoser pyramid, the country's first, had been damaged during restoration work by a company accused of being unqualified to do such work. Duration: 00:56 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
King Richard III's Painful Cause Of Death Revealed

King Richard III's Painful Cause Of Death Revealed

Newsy (Sep. 17, 2014) — King Richard III died in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, and now researchers examining his skull think they know how. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) — Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Museum Traces Fragments of Star-Spangled Banner

Museum Traces Fragments of Star-Spangled Banner

AP (Sep. 12, 2014) — As the Star-Spangled Banner celebrates its bicentennial, Smithsonian curators are still uncovering fragments of the original flag that inspired Francis Scott Key's poem. (Sept. 12) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins