PHILADELPHIA, May 11 (UPI) -- A fossilized dog specimen recently uncovered in Maryland belongs to a new extinct species, Cynarctus wangi.
Dated to 12 million years ago, the dog hails from the Miocene epoch. Researchers situated the species within the extinct subfamily Borophaginae, a group commonly called bone-crushing dogs -- named so for their powerful jaws and wide teeth.
Scientists believe the newly named species looked and behaved much like coyotes or heyenas, roaming, hunting and scavenging along the prehistoric Atlantic coast of North America in groups.
Though the species was certainly a carnivore, its broad teeth suggest it supplement its diet with plants and insects.
"Most fossils known from this time period represent marine animals, who become fossilized more easily than animals on land," Steven E. Jasinski, a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, said in a news release. "It is quite rare we find fossils from land animals in this region during this time, but each one provides important information for what life was like then."
Jansinski led the analysis of the novel dog fossil and authored a new paper on the discovery, published this week in the Journal of Paleontology. He's currently serving as the curator of paleontology and geology at the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg, the state's capital.
The species was discovered by an amateur fossil collector among the Choptank Formation in Maryland's Calvert Cliffs. The Choptank Formation, found in Virginia and Maryland, comprises the Neogene period, which runs from 23 million to 2.5 million years ago.
It's the first carnivore recovered from the formation. Several herbivores from the formation have been discovered, however. Researchers believe Cynarctus wangi may have lived alongside ancient pigs Desmathyus and Prosthenops, the elephant-like Prosynthetoceras and the prehistoric horse Merychippus.
"This new dog gives us useful insight into the ecosystem of eastern North America between 12 and 13 million years ago," Jasinski concluded.