The Extinct Parallel Wolves

xenocyon and cynotherium

Depiction of Xenocyon lycaonoides (in the back) with Cynotherium sardous (in the front).

The “hunting dogs” are sister lineage to the true wolves. They were once widespread across Eurasia, Africa, and into North America. Today, the lineage is survived by two species, the dhole (Cuon alpinus) and the African wild dog or painted dog (Lycaon pictus).

But during the Pleistocene, a third species, much larger than two extant species, was ubiquitous. This species, called Xenocyon lycaonoides, was found all over Africa and all over Eurasia.  It ranged into North America, where its remains have been described as Xenocyon texanus.

It was long accepted in paleontology that the dhole and African wild dog derived from Xenocyon lycaonoides, but new evidence that shows the African wild dog deriving from a Pliocene African species called Lycaon sekowei casts that idea into doubt. Further, because the dhole and African wild dog are so closely related to each other, it is doubtful that either derives from Xenocyon.

My take, based upon simple chronology and the genomic analysis of living species, is that Xenocyon and its offshoots were a sister lineage to that which leads to the dhole and African wild dog.

The best way to think of Xenocyon lycaonoides is that it was the gray wolf before there was a gray wolf. It was a pack-hunting canid that was able to expand its range over a wide range. It was roughly the size of a large northern gray wolf, and it would have been a formidable predator of large game.

On islands, though, Xenocyon evolution went a bit weird. On Java, two descendants of Xenocyon lycaonoides evolved. One was Merriam’s dog (Megacyon merriami). It was even larger than the mainland form, but over time, it was replaced by a smaller form that averaged 22 kg (48.5 pounds) called the Trinil dog (Mececyon trinilensis). A new analysis of these Pleistocene canids places both in the genus Xenocyon (which fits a cladistic classification model) and shows that the smaller Trinil dog derived from the larger Merriam’s dog.  Increased competition from tigers and other large predators forced the larger Merriam’s dog to target smaller prey, and over time, they became smaller.

Anothe even more extreme insular form of Xenocyon evolved on the Pleistocene island of Corsica-Sardinia. This island is now two islands in the Mediterranean, but during the Pleistocene, they were connected to each other. On that Pleistocene island, Xenocyon lycaonoides became isolated on an island that was full of small prey, especially a species endemic pika.  This Corsica-Sardinian canid became a specialist in hunting burrowing prey.  It had the ability to thrust its head out laterally better than any living canid, which would have given it an advantage in catching quick-moving prey that would take refuge in burrow.

This species is called the Sardinian dhole (Cynotherium sardous), but it is not directly related to the modern dhole. It was the size of a golden jackal or a small coyote, and it went extinct after humans colonized Corsica-Sardinia at the very end of the Pleistocene. It was the last of the Xenocyon derivatives to go extinct.

The Mosbach wolf (Canis mosbachensis) was a contemporary of the larger Xenocyon lycaonoides.  It was smaller canid that varied in size from an Eastern coyote to an Indian wolf.  It eventually would evolve into the larger gray wolf, which would have a similar evolutionary trajectory to the Xenocyon. It would spread over much of the world. Many regional forms would evolve.

Domestication, of course, would give the gray wolf lots of opportunities for weirdness to come about. Yes, as weird as the so-called Sardinian dhole was, it was never as bizarrely put together as some of our domestic dog breeds.

These extinct “wolves in parallel” do tell us a lot about how a large canid can radiate across the a broad swathe of the planet and adapt to regional conditions and thrive.

 

 

 

Natural History

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6 Ways To Help Kids Get Excited For Kindergarten

This post is sponsored by General Mills and Nestle, but all opinions are my own.

In less than two weeks, my little girl starts Kindergarten. Typing that out is pretty surreal, because that whole “time is a thief” cliche people throw around about having kids is absolutely true. I don’t feel like she was a baby that long ago, and now she’s completed preschool and is off to elementary. It’s emotionally intense to think about putting her on a bus and waving goodbye on that first day, but I’m also incredibly happy for her. She is happy too, and can’t wait to start at her new school, but she’s also admitted to me that she’s (understandably) a little nervous for this brand new adventure.

In an attempt to replace anxiety with excitement, we have been doing some things to help get her pumped for Kindergarten. And they seem to be working! So I thought I’d share these tips with all of you, in case you have a little one starting kindergarten (or school for the first time) as well.

1. Attend kindergarten orientation.
Most elementary schools offer some sort of optional orientation and I highly recommend going. My daughter’s was a three session program offered once a month for three months in the spring, and we attended all of them. She was very nervous and clingy when we walked in on the first day, even though she is normally quite outgoing and independent. By the end of the first session, her fear was replaced with joy, and by the last session, she couldn’t stop talking about starting school. If you can’t make the specific date(s) for orientation, most schools will allow you to visit on another day.

2. Read books about starting kindergarten. 
At her kindergarten orientation in the spring, Essley was given a book about starting kindergarten, and since then, we’ve gotten a few more. Two of our favorites for starting school (that aren’t kindergarten specific so they work for preschool too) are The Kissing Hand and Llama Llama Misses Mama. We also love Kindergarten Is Cool!

3. Go school shopping together.
Getting new clothes, supplies, and food for school is one of our favorite ways to get excited for the upcoming school year. We’re saving the new backpack shopping trip for last, but we’ve already gotten some new clothes, shoes, and started stocking up on food for her lunches and school day breakfasts at Sam’s Club. A few days ago we grabbed the 96 ounce Bisquick Mix for pancakes and 48 ounce package of Honey Nut Cheerios (her favorite breakfasts),  as well as some of her favorite snacks to add to her lunches (30 count box of Nature Valley Protein bars, 32 count package of GoGurt, and a case of Nestle™ Pure Life Water). One of the things she’s been worried about is having lunch at school everyday for the first time, but taking a Sam’s Club trip to stock up on some of her most beloved food items has helped set her mind at ease. (Pssst! Right now, you can buy 1 earn 12 Box Tops for Education, exclusively at Sam’s Club. See my next tip for more on this…)

4. Start collecting Box Tops for Education.
In the spring, I attended my first PTO meeting at the school where Essley will be attending kindergarten, and Box Tops were mentioned as an easy way to really help out the school. Afterward, I told Essley all about it, and explained how we could make a difference in getting her school what it needs just by purchasing foods we love. She loved this idea, and couldn’t wait to get started collecting them. (Every single one of the items we bought at Sam’s Club that I mentioned in number 3 above helped us earn Box Tops, by the way.)

And the best part is that now Box Tops are going digital! Instead of having to clip and save actual Box Tops off of items, a quick scan of your receipt with the Box Tops app and it automatically adds to your school’s earnings, which you can see online as soon as you do it. So cool, right? If you don’t have a lot of extra time or money to devote to your kids’ schools, Box Tops are an incredible way to contribute through items that you already have on your grocery list. They’re also a great way to get your child involved and excited. Essley loves checking the products we buy for Box Tops, and the more we collect, the more pumped she gets about her new school. As I mentioned above, right now you can buy 1 earn 12 Box Tops, exclusively at Sam’s Club. Bonus!

5. Play school.
Children learn from role playing, and pretending we’re at kindergarten at home using stuffed animals (and ourselves!) has made our daughter feel not only more comfortable, but also joyful about the upcoming school year. It has been great for practicing writing and math, and has also helped her learn how to handle certain situations that might arise in her new classroom, likes talking to her teacher if she ever feels worried.

6. Talk about it.
As much as we want our little ones to be thrilled about everything in front of them and never feel fear or worry, those emotions are okay too. We have made sure to talk to Essley frequently about her feelings about attending Kindergarten and a new school, have shared stories of our own kindergarten experiences, and have assured her that it’s normal to feel apprehensive. We’ve also told her that even though it might seem scary at first because it’s so new, it will get better everyday. This has really helped her to feel excited about the experience (and helped make us more excited too!).

I hope these tips prove as helpful for you as they have for us. And if you have any tips of your own from when your kids started kindergarten, I’d love to hear them!

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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What is a Starbucks Puppuccino?

Do you love Starbucks? Your dog might, too! A Starbucks Puppuccino (some people mistakenly call it a Puppachino) is an item on the chain’s Secret Menu–and it’s just for dogs. A…



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Friday Funny: Baby Deer For Sale

I hope this brought a smile to your weekend! Happy Friday! Until next time, Good day, and good dog!


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Win Bio Hemp™+ Bites (2 winners!)

After 14 months of research and development, Animal Nutritional Products (ANP) has introduced Bio Hemp+ Bites™, pet chews developed to support the joints, gastrointestinal, immune and nervous…



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Recipe: Mango Sorbet for You AND Your Dog!

Today we have a fun that you AND your dog can share…and one that’s perfect for the hot, hot weather that so many regions are tolerating right now. Our mango sorbet is a yummy dairy-free…



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Hair Clip Trend: Yes Please or No Way?

Hair Clip Trend: Yes or No?
1. Slide Set (available in multiple colors), $ 12   |   2. Beaded Clip Set, $ 16   |   3. Luster Slide Set,    4. ‘Next’ Hair Clips, $ 16   |   5. Pearl Slide Set, $ 64   |   6. Fancy Slide Set, $ 28   |   7. Multi-Colored Clip Set, $ 30   |   8. Shimmer Clip Set, $ 16   |   9.  Rhinestone Stars Slide Set, $ 18

I genuinely never wear hair accessories, unless a stretched-out hair tie desperately holding a two day old bun that is slowly giving into gravity counts. But because trends interest me (even if I don’t follow them for the most part), and I’m kind of curious about all of the fancy clips/slides/barrettes everyone is wearing these days. I’m not sure they’re for me, but I do find them to be quite pretty when done right. During one of my 3 AM I-can’t-sleep-so-I’ll-just-make-it-worse-by-picking-up-my-phone rabbit holes, I searched out these clips and came upon a whole bunch that I did not hate. And then I felt compelled to share them here and see what your thoughts are on them.

So tell me, are you into the clip trend (or the scrunchie trend that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, or just hair accessories in general)? Or are you more of a let your locks be free type of person? Any of the clips above strike your fancy? Should I get any of them? Am I asking too many questions on a platform (blogs, duh) that people don’t comment on anymore?

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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All You Need is Love

No explanation needed. Love is love is love is love is love. Until next time, Good day, and good dog!


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Fostering: Great for Pets, Great for Kids

In our age of digital everything, parents are often desperate for ideas for activities that will tear their kids’ attention away from their electronics. One great option may be as close as the…



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Which Shelter Pet Should PawZaar Sponsor Next?

We need your help! It’s time to sponsor a new shelter dog or cat because Ryder, whose kennel was being sponsored by PawZaar, has been adopted!! We’re so excited for this little fellow who…



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