Scientists found a jawbone of a huge canine dating from almost 1.8 million years in an iconic site where human fossils were found in Georgia. The team of experts led by Saverio Bartolini-Lucenti from the University of Florence in Italy said that this could be Europe's first hunting dog.
According to Britannica, the Dmanisi archaeological site is a place site of paleoanthropological excavations in southern Georgia, where a human jaw and teeth resembling that of Homo erectus was found in 1991.
Daily Mail reported that the newly-found remains of the species could be Canis (Xenocyon) lycaonoides, also known as a Eurasian hunting dog, that originated in East Asia. They could have descended from African hunting dogs and likely lived with humans in Georgia before disappearing.
Europe's First Hunting Dog
The analysis of the bones showed that they could be from between 1.77-1.76 million years ago, making them the earliest known fossils of wild hunting dogs in Europe. Researchers said that their analysis predates the movement of hunting dogs from Asia to Europe and Africa during the mid-Pleistocene Epoch.
They think the jawbone belongs to a young adult hunting dog that is large and could weigh around 66 pounds (30 kilograms) based on the lack of wear on its teeth. More so, its dental features reveal similarities with other wild dog sp[ecies particularly the canids that lived in the same period.
Daily Mail further reported that experts identified the fossils were from a highly carnivorous species with an eating diet of 70% meat because it has shorter, narrower third premolars, while an enlarged and sharp carnassial tooth in the middle of the jaw would have been used to shred food.
"Much fossil evidence suggests that this species was a cooperative pack-hunter," the researchers wrote. "Unlike other large-sized canids, [it] was capable of social care toward kin and non-kin members of its group."
They published the findings of their study, titled "The early hunting dog from Dmanisi with comments on the social behavior in Canidae and hominins," in the journal Scientific Reports.
Intriguing Parallels Between the Eurasian Hunting Dog and H. erectus
According to National Geographic, the discovery of the Eurasian hunting dog's fossils opens intriguing parallels between them and Homo erectus. Both of them spread across multiple continents, such as Africa, Asia, and Europe.
Additionally, both were social mammals that researchers proved when examining the skulls with missing teeth and deformed jaws. They reasoned that any animal would have a hard time feeding itself when injured, so they might have had help getting food from others if it indeed lived after experiencing an injury.
Moreover, a site in Span where C. (Xenocyon) lycaonoides were found showed tat asymmetric skull with several tooth defects suggest that fellow pack hunters assisted them in obtaining food.
The Dmanisi archaeological site provides similar evidence on H. erectus' food-sharing activity as evident on the skull of an elderly hominin that died several years after losing all its teeth ut one.
However, experts did not find that the hunting dogs were social within Dmanisi. They hope to find more fossils to confirm the dog's sociality and other evidence that could point to how they fit into the candid family tree. Paleontologist Mairin Balisi said that the more pieces of the puzzle they can get, the better.
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