Ancient Cats Almost Caused the Extinction of Ancient Dogs

They say time heals all wounds but perhaps for dogs, not enough time has passed just yet… Because of cats, nearly 40 species of canines went extinct.

That’s right. Almost FORTY SPECIES OF CANINES are extinct because of cats. Think about that for a moment.

So what happened?

Ancient Cats Outhunted Dogs

According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the felid family’s arrival in North America millions of years ago spelled doom for nearly 40 canine species.

About 22 million years ago, the dog family in North America reached its peak, with more than 30 different species. Some canine species grew as large as 66 pounds and ranked among the largest carnivores in all of North America.

Until cats arrived.

Ancient cats outhunted ancient dogs, leading to the extinction of almost 40 species of canines. Today, we only have nine species of canines. Interestingly, the article states that dogs did not have a similar impact on the cat family.

Why did cats outhunt dogs? One of the reasons, according to the study, was that they have retractable claws. Unlike dogs, cats have claws that stay sharp for ambushing and catching prey.

The Results Were Worse Than Climate Change

For ancient dogs, competition with other predators had a bigger effect on the diversity of their species than climate change. When scientists started the study, analyzing over 2,000 fossils, they expected to see evidence that climate change was the big driver for species extinction. Instead, when it came to ancient dogs, the big driver was the arrival of ancient cats.

So is this part of the reason why today’s dogs often want to hunt down cats? Maybe they’re just on guard from an old wound that’s millions of years old.