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Researchers Discover ‘Bone-Crushing’ Dog At Tennessee Fossil Site

(Illustration credit: Mauricio Antón via East Tennessee State University)

Researchers from East Tennessee State University have found evidence of a prehistoric dog “crushing bones” at the Gray Fossil Site, according to a college press release.

The discovery of this “bone-crushing” dog marks the first of its kind to be found in the Appalachian region.

“Bone Crushing” Dogs

Bone-grinder dogs belong to the genus borophagous, an extinct group of canids that once roamed North America. They get their name from their powerful jaws, which are strong enough to destroy bone.

Before the discovery of an arm bone at the Gray Fossil Site, scientists thought the creature only existed in open grasslands. Dense forest fills the Appalachian region, a stark contrast to the ecosystem the researchers previously discovered borophagous fossils.

The Gray Fossil Site has about 200 species of animals and plants, most of which are not apex predators. In fact, this “bone-crushing” dog is one of two large terrestrial predators found at the site. The other is a saber-toothed cat.

“With two large predators on land and alligators in the water, the herbivores at the site should have been on high alert,” said Emily Bōgner, one of the researchers.

From Apex Predator to Pet

How did this ‘bone-crushing’ dog become a beloved pet?

Recently, scientists traced the lineage of domestic dogs to two populations of ancient gray wolves in Asia and Africa. Scientists hypothesize that these wolves are descended from the borophagous gender.

It’s pretty amazing that our clumsy pups come from a line of vicious predators, especially dogs strong enough to crush bones.