Posts Tagged ‘Amphicyonid’

Jess got the closest to getting this creature’s identity correct.

It is supposed to Amphicyon ingens, a species of “bear dog” (family Amphicyonidae) that lived in North America 13.6 million years ago.

Contrary to what this depiction suggests, this animal did not look like a lion with a dog’s head slapped on it.

The larger species of bear dog had features we would associate with modern bears, dogs, and, yes, big cats.

I note that one important bear-like feature is missing from this depiction– the plantigrade foot anatomy.

This depiction does a much better job of showing this feature:

This particular depiction of a member of the genus Amphicyon looks like a hybrid between a lion and a black bear. However, the muzzle of Amphicyon ingens was much longer than either a bear’s or a big cat’s, a trait we associate with modern dogs.

This depiction of a bear dog comes closest to Amphicyon ingens– because it is an actual attempt reconstruct this species:

With an estimated weight in excess of 1300 pounds, Amphicyon ingens was the largest of bear dog family. They evolved from wolf-like ancestors into bear-like creatures. The wolf body-type is actually a primitive carnivore body-type. Even the early hyenas, which are feliform Carnivores, looked more like wolves than hyenas. It has traditionally been suggested that bear dogs were close relatives of bears, but because the early ones looked so much like wolves, it has been suggested that they are actually derived from early caniforms,  the suborder that includes both modern dogs and bears.

These animals had to have been ambush hunters, much like the big cats.  The prey in those days was big and slow. When pack-hunting Borophaginae came into North America (such as Epicyon), it is thought that they outcompeted Amphicyon.

It is an interesting theory. We do know that modern wolves tend to dominate cougars. A cougar can kill a wolf on its own, but it cannot withstand competition from a pack of wolves. Wolves are better able to use a wider array of prey sources and take up all the best hunting grounds, leaving the cougar, a deer and elk hunting specialist, to eke out an existence on the margins.

Perhaps the same thing happened in North America when Epicyon showed up. Amphicyon ingens may have been able to kill a pack of Epicyon, but because they were pack hunters, they were better able to compete in the same area. (It is possible that the same thing happened when the dingo showed up on the Australian mainland and outcompeted the solitary mainland thylacine.)

Whatever the reasons for its extinction, Amphicyon ingens was a spectacular predator. It was not a lion with a dog’s head photo-shopped onto it.  That particular depiction reminds me of creationist Kirk Cameron’s bogus examples of transitional forms, the most famous of which is the crocoduck.

It’s a bad depiction. End of story.

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