Like humans take rap for killing off mammoths.
Yes, August. Hot weather. Stories.
Competition from cats drove extinction of many species of ancient dogs
Competition played a more important role in the evolution of the dog family (wolves, foxes, and their relatives) than climate change, shows a new international study published in PNAS.
An international team including scientists from the Universities of Gothenburg (Sweden), São Paulo (Brazil) and Lausanne (Switzerland) analyzed over 2000 fossils and revealed that the arrival of felids to North America from Asia had a deadly impact on the diversity of the dog family, contributing to the extinction of as many as 40 of their species.
“We usually expect climate changes to play an overwhelming role in the evolution of biodiversity. Instead, competition among different carnivore species proved to be even more important for canids” says leading author Daniele Silvestro at the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg.
Note that the authors are not attempting to make climate change a catchall explanation for everything. That’s encouraging.
The evolutionary success of carnivorous animals is inevitably linked to their ability to obtain food. The limited amount of resources (preys) imposes strong competition among carnivores sharing the same geographic range. For instance African carnivores such as wild dogs, hyenas, lions and other felids are constantly competing with each other for food. North American carnivores in the past might have followed similar dynamics and much of the competition is found among species of the dog family and from ancient felids and dogs. Interestingly, while felids appeared to have a strongly negative impact on the survival of ancient dogs, the opposite is not true. This suggests that felids must have been more efficient predators than most of the extinct species in the dog family. More.
That too is interesting, because it suggests the cats were smarter, contrary to widely held beliefs about the species today.
We’ll probably never really know because felids probably didn’t just decide to wander into North America for no particular reason. They were probably facing environmental pressures in Asia. Similar pressures might affect canids, though maybe more so.
Ecologies are very complex. The component life forms are already very complex, and ecologies are relationships between these components. And as noted earlier, in mammoths vs. humans, correlation is not causation.
However, cats act as if this version of the story is true. For whatever that’s worth. 😉
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