Is it possible that today’s cats and dogs originally came from the same species in the Eocene period? Enter the Miacids, and the Carnivorans were born. Ok – so maybe we don’t want to go back quite that far. But you have to admit that it is quite impressive to think that some of today’s creatures, like cats, dogs, seals, civets, and even bears came from this one particular creature millions of years ago. How incredible evolution is. To understand how man evolved and to try to put that into perspective as to how other creatures evolved gives a lot of room for speculation because there is just so much we don’t know with absolute certainty. So to think that a small dog/cat like carnivorous creature evolved into the cats and dogs we have today leaves us with an automatic jaw drop and a resounding “um, what?!”
So let’s look at something called the dawn-wolf. This wolf was lighter, longer, could climb in trees, was more foxlike . . . but wait a minute. Doesn’t that sound kind of like a cat, not a dog? Hmmm. Well, yes, it does point in that general direction, but remember that migration is one of the more fascinating things about the wolf. They move, they change, and they evolve for their landscape. And remember that the earth is continually shifting and changing along with all of these changes in our fellow animals, humanoids, and other creatures. Flora and fauna are changing which means foods change. So for the wolf to survive and adapt into that beautiful creature we see today, they evolved with the changes that were happening about them.
Around the Miocene period, canines and felines were wholly separated species. This change would be around twenty thousand years ago. The wolves’ bodies started changing which left them with the unused 5th claw, also known as the dew claw, even on our favorite four-legged playmates. Pretty crazy how all this ties together, huh? Then during the early Pleistocene period, our favorite Grey Wolf (Canis Lupis) appeared on the scene. However, the one that we crazy people love to terrify our youngsters about in scary stories, the Dire Wolf (Canis Dirus) evolved a bit earlier but did coexist with our friend the grey wolf.
The Dire Wolf isn’t this massive creature that terrifies us just thinking about them. They were only about 5 feet long, weight a little over 100 lbs. However, where they differed was in their looks. Their heads were bigger, broader, but their legs were shorter and tended to be sturdier. Do you remember those pictures of the Saber-toothed cats? Well, bring on the nightmares children. These wolves had much larger teeth than their slightly less canine competitors, not quite the crazy lengths of the Saber-toothed cats, but definitely in the realm of the hyena’s teeth. The belief is that they did what the hyenas do and crush bones with those massive jaws. Incredible wear and tear were found on the crowns of their teeth. While they had the teeth to back up the bite, the shorter and stouter legs did not make for great running. Hence the reason that the grey wolf thrived and the Dire Wolf went the way of extinction along with several other herbivores a little less than 10,000 years ago.
Hopefully, I haven’t completely bored you to tears. I find evolution fascinating, so I thought I would make this evolution conversation last a few more blogs. Let us know if this is not your thing and you really would like to move on. However, the next article is going to involve the evolution of how the humans and wolves began interacting and how their relationship grew strong. So stick around and keep reading.
For now, reach for the stars, believe in yourself, and howl at the moon for the sheer joy of it. Forever Follow the Wolf.Written by Samantha Ford
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