Our fossil dog poop paper is out today!
I’m excited about this study because, previously, we had deduced and calculated—from the shape of their skulls and jaws—that North American fossil dogs of the genus Borophagus crushed the bones of prey larger than itself. But, with this paper, now we have tangible evidence of this bone-cracking behavior. Bone in poop! Including a rib fragment, from which we estimated prey the size of a living mule deer; and other pieces of evidence about how these dogs lived (yeah, so metal).
This is special because these bone-cracking dogs were common in North America from about 16 to 2 million years ago—and then disappeared just before the Ice Age began. These days, we no longer have bone-crushers like this, save for the spotted hyena in Africa (which, in an example of convergent evolution, is similar in skull shape to these fossil dogs even though hyenas are more closely related to cats than to dogs).
The fossil poop (coprolites) are from Stanislaus County, California, close to Turlock and Modesto. Thanks to collaborators at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, University at Buffalo, and California State University at Stanislaus for the opportunity to contribute to this fun study.
eLife, where we published, includes an “eLife digest” that summarizes the study for the general public, which is a neat feature. Click on over for the inside scoop on poop!