Paleontologists Xiaoming Wang and Richard Tedford wrote the book (literally and figuratively) on the evolution of the taxonomic family Canidae; an evolutionary history that spans 40 million years. The taxon is comprised of dog-like creatures that range from the extinct, ancient Hesperocyons to today’s more familiar domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris).
In their most recent work, Dog’s: Their Fossil Relatives & Evolutionary History, these well-respected fossil hunters join forces with Spanish paleontological artist Mauricio Anton.
What Are Dogs and Where Did They Come From?
The book opens with a chapter on paleontological methods, and then goes on to reveal how and where dogs originated; in North America, descending from early, more generalized carnivores. Readers are then introduced to both the extinct and extant (currently living) members of the dog family.
Dog Parts and Pieces Put to Work
A chapter on anatomy and function reveals how dog’s bodies work and are well adapted to procure a very flexible diet that can include plants, bugs and, of course meat with a strength of skill, jaw tooth enamel that enables canids to crack open nutrient-rich bones.
In the chapter that logically follows, readers can learn about how this specialized anatomy is put to work during hunting and other the other types of social activities that dogs engage in.
Effect of Environment on Canid Evolution and Dispersal
Dramatic environmental changes occurred during different geologic epochs, changes that greatly affected the evolution of all life, including canids, and resulted in a diversity of canid species; specialists that dispersed and continued to evolve in concert with their environments.
Although canids originated in North America, they are one of the most mobile groups of carnivores, with intercontinental migrations that ultimately resulted in a nearly worldwide distribution of dogs.
The Evolution of Man’s Best Friend
The book closes with a meaty chapter on the domestic dog and how Fido became domesticated. Dogs were, in fact, the first animal to be fully domesticated by humans.
About the Authors & Illustrator
Xiaoming Wang is currently curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
Richard H. Tedford, is curator emeritus in the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History and has published three volumes on the natural history of North American canids.
Artist Mauricio Anton, based at the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid, has contributed to and authored numerous books, including Mammoths, Sabertooths, and Hominids: 65 Million Years of Mammalian Evolution in Europe; The Big Cats and Their Fossil Relatives: An Illustrated Guide to Their Evolution and Natural History, and Evolving Eden: An Illustrated Guide to the Evolution of the African Large Mammal Fauna.
About the Book
Overall, Dogs provides the most up-to-date scientific data from fossil evidence to the cutting-edge research on molecular genetics of modern day canids, all accompanied by beautiful artwork and other useful graphics. The appendix presents a thorough list of canid species and classification, a phylogenetic tree of Canidae, a glossary of terms and an extensive reading list.
Title: Dogs: Their Fossil Relatives and Evolutionary History
Authors: Xiaoming Wang & Richard Tedford
Illustrator: Mauricio Anton
Publisher & Year: Columbia University Press, 2008
List Price: $29.99
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-231-13528-3
Recommendation: If you are interested in how modern day dogs and their relatives came to be this is a book to devour; a feast for the eyes and mind!