Anxiety may give dogs gray hair

File photo: Gamekeeper Bob Pirie poses with his dog Kyle on a heather moor a day before the opening of the grouse shooting season, on the Auchleeks Estate near Trinafour, Scotland August 11, 2010.

File photo: Gamekeeper Bob Pirie poses with his dog Kyle on a heather moor a day before the opening of the grouse shooting season, on the Auchleeks Estate near Trinafour, Scotland August 11, 2010.  (REUTERS/Russell Cheyne )

Just like human hair, dogs’ fur can go gray if they’re going through tough times, a new study finds.

Young dogs whose owners rated them as anxious and impulsive were more likely to have prematurely gray muzzles than dogs that were not regarded as anxious or impulsive, the researchers found.

“Based on my years of experience observing and working with dogs, I’ve long had a suspicion that dogs with higher levels of anxiety and impulsiveness also show increased muzzle grayness,” study lead researcher Camille King, who earned her doctorate at Northern Illinois University’s Adult and Higher Education program in 2011 and now has her own animal behavior practice in the Denver area, said in a statement. [What These 8 Dog Breeds Say About Your Personality]

To investigate, the researchers traveled to dog parks, veterinary clinics and other venues in Colorado, giving questionnaires to the owners of 400 dogs. After the owners answered a 42-item questionnaire about their dogs’ behavior, age and health, the researchers took two mug shots of each dog.

The researchers excluded dogs with light-colored fur, as the coloring made it difficult to discern whether the dogs had a gray muzzle. They also excluded dogs that weren’t between 1 and 4 years old, as older dogs could have gray fur simply from aging, the researchers said.

To gauge each dog’s anxiety level, the researchers asked questions about the pet’s behavior, including whether the dog destroyed things when left alone, whether the dog had hair loss during vet exams or when it entered new places, and whether the dog cringed or cowered in response to groups of people.

To rate impulsivity, the researchers asked whether the dogs jumped on people, whether they could be calmed, if they had a loss of focus and whether they were hyperactive after exercise. Afterward, two independent raters who had never met the dogs graded each photo on a scale of 0 to 3, with 0 indicating no muzzle grayness and 3 indicating full muzzle grayness.

Gray fur

Female dogs tended to have higher levels of grayness than male dogs did, the researchers found. Moreover, dogs that showed fearfulness toward loud noises and unfamiliar animals and people tended to have increased grayness, they said.

In contrast, grayness had nothing to do with the dog’s size, whether it was fixed (that is, spayed or neutered) and whether the dog had any medical problems.

“At first, I was somewhat skeptical of the hypothesis,” said study co-researcher Thomas Smith, a professor in the College of Education at Northern Illinois University. “However, when we analyzed the data, the results actually were quite striking.”

Other studies have shown that stress can alter hair color. It’s unclear whether American presidents go gray because of high levels of stress or genetics, but stress can alter hair growth in mice, according to a 2006 study in the journal Experimental Dermatology. And stress is associated with accelerated aging in mice, a 2014 study in the journal Current Pharmaceutical Design found.

The dog findings have practical applications, the researchers noted. If people who work with dogs notice young dogs with prematurely gray muzzles, they could alert the owners that the dog might be experiencing anxiety, impulsivity or fear issues. If necessary, the dogs could enroll in behavior-modification programs, the researchers wrote in the study, which was published in the December issue of the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

“This is an original, unique study that has implications for dog welfare,” said study co-researcher Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University.

Original article on Live Science.

Remains of a rare 3-million-year-old creature found in eastern Argentina

A rendering of the recently discovered Promacrauchenian.

A rendering of the recently discovered Promacrauchenian.  (Courtesy of Daniel Boh, Municipal Museum of Miramar.)

Researchers in eastern Argentina have discovered the remains of a strange creature that lived three million years ago, some 280 miles south of modern-day Buenos Aires.

One of the team members, Daniel Boh described the animal, an hervibore mammal, as a mix “of a horse and an elephant; like a camel with a trumpet.”

Boh, who runs the Municipal Museum Punta Hermengo of Miramar, said they have been able to determine the creature is from the Promacrauchenian family and lived in the Pliocene, an era ruled by mammals and birds of great size.

This is some 62 million years after dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

“The discovery is important because there were no previous records of this animal in the area,” Boh told FoxNews.com in an email.

“It is rare, so it is of scientific interest and also helps to understand the environmental and geographic changes in the region.”

The prehistoric mammal was 5.2 feet tall and more than 8 feet long; it weighed around 1,100 pounds.

It appears to have had some kind of amphibian abilities.

“The short trumpet would serve as a prehensile lip (similar to the tapir) to [allow it to] remain submerged, and also to condition the air and as a tool of general use,” said Mariano Magnussen, a technician working on the fossils, to local newspaper Clarin.

He said that it shares many morphological adaptations with the Giraffidae, to which it is not directly related to. Magnussen said this is a result of “an adaptive convergence or a parallel evolution.”

The fossils were found on the side of a cliff, not far from a golf course overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Boh said they will continue to visit and study the area. “The sea waves will continue to erode [the cliff] and is sure to expose remains that we have not yet seen and are supposed to be there,” he told FoxNews.com.

Researchers had previously recovered here several remains of a more modern specimen, the Macrauchenia   ̶̶  known colloquially as “long llamas”  ̶̶  which lived until about 8,000 years ago.

The Macrauchenia was found in the days of Darwin, circa 1830,
while the Promacrauchenia was first pinpointed in the early 20th century.

The fossils will be kept in the Miramar museum, where they are being processed.

“The remains we found are very fragile,” Boh said. “[We found] a fragment of a skull, parts of a front leg – like phalanges and carps – which allow us to know how it walked or if it ran, as well as a femur and vertebrae.”

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How lasers and a goggle-wearing parrot could aid flying robot designs

Obi the parrotlet wearing protective goggles.

Obi the parrotlet wearing protective goggles.  (Eric Gutierrez)

A barely visible fog hangs in the air in a California laboratory, illuminated by a laser. And through it flies a parrot, outfitted with a pair of tiny, red-tinted goggles to protect its eyes.

As the bird flaps its way through the water particles, its wings generate disruptive waves, tracing patterns that help scientists understand how animals fly.

In a new study, a team of scientists measured and analyzed the particle trails that were produced by the goggle-wearing parrot’s test flights, and showed that previous computer models of wing movement aren’t as accurate as they once thought. This new perspective on flight dynamics could inform future wing designs in autonomous flying robots, according to the study authors.

When animals fly, they create an invisible “footprint” in the air, similar to the wake that a swimmer leaves behind in water. Computer models can interpret these air disturbances to calculate the forces that are required to keep a flyer aloft and propel it forward.

A team of scientists had recently developed a new system that tracked the airflow generated by flight at an unprecedented level of detail. They wanted to compare their improved observations to several commonly used computer models that use wake measurements to estimate flying animals’ lift, to see if their predictions would be on track.

Flight of the parrotlet

For the study, the researchers enlisted the help of a Pacific parrotlet — a type of small parrot — named Obi. Obi was trained to fly between two perches that are positioned about 3 feet apart, through a very fine mist of water droplets, which are illuminated by a laser sheet. The water particles that seeded the air were exceptionally small, “only 1 micron in diameter,” said study author David Lentink, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University in California. (In comparison, the average strand of human hair is about 100 microns thick.)

Obi’s eyes were protected from the laser’s light with custom goggles: a 3D-printed frame that is fitted with lenses cut from human safety glasses — the same type of glasses worn by Lentink and his team.

When the laser flashed on and off — at a rate of 1,000 times per second — the water droplets scattered the laser’s light, and high-speed cameras shooting 1,000 frames per second captured the trails of disturbed particles as Obi fluttered from perch to perch.

The tests showed something unexpected. Computer models predicted that once the whirling air patterns — also known as vortices — were created by a bird’s wings, they would remain relatively stable in the air. But the patterns Obi traced began to disintegrate after the bird flapped its wings just a few times.

“We were surprised to find the vortices that are usually drawn in papers and text books as beautiful donut rings turned out to break up dramatically after two to three wing beats,” Lentink told Live Science in an email. He explained that this meant the models, which are widely used in animal flight studies to calculate an animal’s lift based on the wake it produced, were likely inaccurate.

“Thanks to the high-speed recording, we were able to capture this and play it back in slow motion, so we could see with our eyes how the vortices break up and make it hard for the models to predict lift well,” Lentink said.

Testing the flight models

The researchers performed their own calculations about how much lift Obi generated from his wing beats by using a device that Lentink’s team developed in 2015 — an enclosed box that’s equipped with force sensors so sensitive that they were able to detect vibrations produced by the lab’s ventilation system, Lentink said in a statement .

They then tested three different models, plugging in the measurements of the air patterns from Obi’s flights, and comparing the models’ lift estimates to their own. The models produced a range of results — none of which matched the scientists’ calculations.

Creating better models will be an important next step for studying animal flight, Lentink told Live Science. Video of a be-goggled Obi showed that even a slow-flying parrotlet’s wing movements are more complex than scientists had anticipated. Even more variations are likely to exist across species and in animals using different flying techniques, which suggests that the current models are greatly oversimplified, the study authors wrote. Updating them will enable researchers to better understand how animals fly, and could help engineers improve flying robots — many of which mimic animals’ powered flight.

“Many people look at the results in the animal flight literature for understanding how robotic wings could be designed better,” Lentink said in a statement. “Now, we’ve shown that the equations that people have used are not as reliable as the community hoped they were. We need new studies, new methods to really inform this design process much more reliably.”

The findings were published online Dec. 5 in the journal Bioinspiration and Biomimetics .

Original article on Live Science .

Woman says she was bitten by large shark in waters off Maui coast

 (Google Street View)

Hawaii officials say a woman is in the hospital after she was bitten by what she called a large shark off Maui.

A spokesman from the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources said the incident Monday occurred in front of a lifeguard stand.

HOW ONE MAN FOUGHT OFF A GREAT WHITE SHARK

He says lifeguards treated the woman before she was taken to the hospital.

The woman says a shark bit her about 40 yards offshore from Kamaole Beach Park. Authorities have not yet confirmed whether the bite came from a shark or another sea creature.

An official has gone to the hospital to interview the victim.

The woman’s name and condition were immediately available. Maui County posted shark-warning signs along the beach.

‘Mud Dragon’ dinosaur unearthed in China

Tongtianlong limosus artist's illustration (Zhou Chuang)

Tongtianlong limosus artist’s illustration (Zhou Chuang)

A new species of bird–like dinosaur was recently discovered at a construction site in Southern China. Dubbed Tongtianlong limosus, the winged creature had died after becoming mired in mud about 66–72 million years ago– hence it’s nickname, the ‘Mud Dragon.’

Before the well–preserved and near–complete skeleton was discovered, it had been damaged by dynamite while workmen were excavating a school near Ganzhou. Luckily, the workers found it before any more damage had been done.

“They very nearly dynamited it into billions of pieces, but thankfully they placed the dynamite just far enough away from the skeleton that most of it survived the blast,” study co–author Dr. Steve Brusatte of the University of Edinburgh told FoxNews.com. “I wasn’t there when it was found, but they must have realized right away that they had found something important, and it’s great that the fossil was conserved by a museum rather than sold off or auctioned away, where it would have been lost to science forever.”

NOT A JOKE: SCIENTISTS STUDY HOW CHICKENS MADE HISTORIC CROSSINGS

The skeleton of the two–legged Tongtianlong limosus (translation “muddy dragon on the road to heaven”) was lying on its back with its neck arched and wings outstretched. It also had a crest of bone on its head that researchers believed may have been used to attract mates or intimidate enemies.

Tongtianlong is the sixth species of the oviraptorosaur dinosaur family, a group of feathered dinos known for their sharp beaks and short, toothless heads. Oviraptors were thriving in the 15 million years before the comet that killed the dinosaurs hit Mexico, and Brusatte believes that the most important thing about the new fossil is that it gives us a glimpse of these last surviving dinosaurs.

“They were still diversifying during those last few million years of the Cretaceous, so they are a sign that dinosaurs were still doing really well right up towards the end,” the paleontologist said. “It was these dinosaurs that were undergoing the final wave of diversification before everything changed that day the asteroid hit.”

BATHROOM TRIP LEADS TO ANCIENT AUSTRALIAN DISCOVERY

Despite its wings, the Mud Dragon was flightless so it had to rely on its feet to get away from predators such as the big tyrannosaur Qianzhousaurus, which was the top predator in the area at the time. It also had different feeding habits than a lot of its fellow dinosaurs.

“The Mud Dragon didn’t have teeth, but rather a beak, so it wasn’t a traditional meat eater,” Brusatte explained. “It may have eaten small mammals and lizards, but probably also plants, seeds, nuts, shellfish–all kinds of things. It was a classic omnivore, which is maybe one reason that these dinosaurs were so diverse and successful, because they could eat so many things.”

There’s been a wave of dinosaur finds over the last few years in China, with many new dinosaur discoveries emerging from the country every year. Brusatte said that things don’t look to be slowing down, either.

ANCIENT BATTLE LEFT ‘SEA MONSTER’ WITH TOOTH STUCK IN ITS FACE

“Many of these discoveries are not found by professors or academic scientists with PhDs, but by farmers and workmen. This new discovery is a prime example of that. We would never know about it had there not been a building boom in southern China, had these workmen not been on the job that day, or had they not used just the right amount of dynamite to free the skeleton but not destroy it.”

The study can be found in Scientific Reports.

Plane makes emergency landing after snake found slithering in overhead bin

NOW PLAYINGRaw video: Live snake spotted dangling overhead bin

It was a moment that would make even Samuel L. Jackson shriek in fear.

Passengers on a commercial flight in Mexico were given an unexpected shock when a serpent slithered into the cabin in a scene straight out of the Hollywood thriller “Snakes on a Plane.”

Carrier Aeromexico confirmed that a live snake was found on board a flight Sunday afternoon in a statement released to Publimetro. Flight 231, which makes the two-hour trip once a day from Torreon, Coahuila, to Mexico City was forced to make an expedited landing so animal control could come aboard to collect the reptile.

A brief video posted to Twitter shows a greenish snake emerging from the ceiling behind an overhead luggage compartment and then partially dropping down into the cabin.

Animal smuggler caught sneaking reptiles in his pants

Aeromexico said that the plane was given priority landing in Mexico City, where workers “secured the reptile.” No passengers reported any injuries due to the incident but flier Indalecio Medina wrote on Facebook that he and another passenger caught the snake using a blanket and magazines before emergency personnel arrived.

The airline says it’s investigating how the snake got into the airplane and is taking measures to avoid it happening in the future.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

How one man fought off a great white shark

Undated file picture.

Undated file picture.  (Reuters)

Joe Tanner was paddling on his surfboard off the Oregon coast, waiting to catch a wave, when he felt something grab his leg.

It was a scenario any surfer or beachgoer would dread: Tanner looked down to find a toothy great white shark. The 29-year-old fought off the shark, punching it repeatedly in the gills until it let go, and escaping in what is being called an “incredible” feat.

Once Tanner reached the shore, he directed his own first aid, asking people to tie tourniquets to stanch the flow of blood from his wounds.

“I remember thinking, ‘Thank God I made it to shore,'” Tanner told Live Science. “Then, the pain hit.” [In Photos: Great White Sharks Attack]

Marine biologists are calling Tanner’s escape extraordinary, saying that he did all of the right things, from punching the shark on its sensitive gills to directing his medical treatment until emergency help arrived. Granted, Tanner knew about first aid because he’s a critical care nurse at Portland’s Legacy Emanuel Medical Center.

“He’s obviously incredibly lucky and incredibly cool under pressure,” said Dr. Matthew Levy, an associate professor of emergency medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, who was not involved in Tanner’s care. “It’s one thing to be a lifesaver and save other people’s lives as a nurse and health care provider, but another to have the mental discipline and nerves of steel to direct others around him as to what to do.”

Robot shark

Tanner, a native of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, began surfing while he was an undergraduate at the University of Portland in Oregon in 2006. He had experience snowboarding and wakeboarding, and found he could easily balance on a surfboard, catching waves and relaxing as he took in nature, Tanner told Live Science.

After graduating with a biology degree, he worked as a commercial fisherman in southeast Alaska, and afterward lived in Kenya, working at a medical clinic, and then India. “That was one of the best times I’ve ever had in my life,” he said, remembering motorcycling across South Asia. Later, he returned to Portland to get his nursing degree.

On the sunny morning of Oct. 10, Tanner planned to go surfing with a friend at Indian Beach in Oregon’s Ecola State Park. But his friend couldn’t make it, so Tanner went by himself, surfing in the morning and taking a break in the afternoon. While resting on the beach, he talked with another surfer — ironically, about sharks, he said.

At about 4 p.m. local time, Tanner and the other surfer returned to the water in their wetsuits. “I had just gotten out there, paddling in the surf,” Tanner said. “My feet were dangling in the water. All of a sudden, something grabbed my leg, and kind of took me off my surfboard and under.”

His initial reaction was disbelief, Tanner said. When he opened his eyes, the shark looked like a giant wall before him, with the head to his left and tail to his right.

“I remember not seeing anything moving like a normal animal [would],” he said. “I had the thought, ‘Why is there a shark robot in the water?'” [Photos: The Freakiest-Looking Fish]

Tanner thought that he would surely die. But, in a moment of clarity, he recalled that victims of shark attacks are supposed to punch the shark in the eyes or nose. “I couldn’t reach the nose, and the eyes were pretty small targets,” he said. “I saw gills in front of me, and they seemed pretty fragile, so I just started hitting and punching the gills.”

Incredibly, the shark released Tanner. “I got onto my board and screamed at everybody to get out of the water because there was a shark,” he said. Tanner was about 200 yards offshore, but with the other surfer nearby, he managed to make it back. All the while, Tanner worried that the shark would follow the trail of blood from his bleeding leg, he said.

Once Tanner reached the shore, people called 911, and he remembers asking them to tie a tourniquet on his right leg using the surfboard’s leash. That was smart, Levy said, as “We know [severe bleeding] is the leading cause of death of trauma victims within the first 24 hours [of their injury].” [Here’s What to Do in a Bleeding Emergency]

Six people carried Tanner on his surfboard to the parking lot. Once there, he asked them to remove the top of his wetsuit so that emergency workers would quickly be able to administer intravenous therapy. He also told them his blood type, and yelled at the top of his lungs, both with pain and as a way to cope, while people pressed down on his leg with towels, trying to curb the flow of blood.

Soon thereafter, police and then a helicopter arrived and flew him to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center.

Attack or curious shark?

Given that Tanner was on his surfboard on a sunny day, is it possible that the shark mistook his silhouette for a seal, one of its preferred meals?

Probably not, said Andrew Nosal, an assistant professor of biological sciences at Saint Katherine College in San Marcos, California.

The simpler explanation is that the shark saw something novel, and decided to test whether it could eat it, Nosal said. “Unfortunately for us, the shark can only test things with its mouth, so what might be a gentle test bite for a shark could be devastating for a person,” he said. [7 Unanswered Questions About Sharks]

However, the shark likely wasn’t expecting the novelty (that is, Tanner) to fight back. The gills are filled with blood vessels that are close to the skin’s surface, and Tanner probably surprised the shark when he hit the vessels, Nosal said. Victims of shark attacks can also hit the sensitive eyes and the tip of the nose to surprise a shark, Nosal added.

Tanner was lucky that the shark didn’t ambush and launch him into the air, as the predator often does with seals, said Christopher Lowe, a professor of marine biology at California State University, Long Beach.

Unlike other sharks, great whites (Carcharodon carcharias) are warm-blooded, which gives them the ability to swim rapidly toward prey, Lowe said. Their preferred meals — elephant seals and other marine mammals — are smart and nimble, and ambush attacks are one of the few ways great whites can catch them, he said.

It’s a mystery just how many great white sharks live off the West Coast, but researchers reporting in a 2014 study in the journal PLOS ONE estimated that there were more than 2,000 swimming off the coast of California. Despite their numbers, shark attacks on people are rare, but more will likely happen in the coming years as shark populations increase, Lowe said.

C. carcharias‘ numbers are increasing because of environmental policies enacted over the past several decades that protect fish and marine mammals within U.S. waters, Lowe said. Young great white sharks eat fish, and adults eat marine mammals; as their prey become more abundant, so do sharks, Lowe said.

Perhaps the great white shark was swimming near Indian Beach because seals or sea lions were nearby hunting for salmon that was returning home to spawn that fall, Tanner and other experts said.

Hospital care

The shark ended up leaving a semicircle of 6-inch-deep punctures on the upper right part of Tanner’s thigh. To repair the muscle and other damage to his leg, Tanner has undergone three surgeries.

Doctors now say he’s expected to be walking again six weeks after his third surgery. Tanner hopes to return to surfing eventually. Rather than blaming the shark for the predicament, “I have no animosity toward it,” he said. “We’re in their territory, and that’s a risk of surfing, no matter how rare it is.” [On the Brink: A Gallery of Wild Sharks]

Nosal called Tanner’s take “insightful.”

“Just remember that there’s no such thing as ‘shark-infested waters,'” Nosal said. “Sharks live there; that’s their home. You can’t infest your own home. When we get into the water, we have to recognize that there are risks associated with that, just like there are risks getting into our cars and driving to work every day.”

Get tips on avoiding shark attacks, such as steering clear of places where sharks and their prey are known to swim, in this Live Science article.

Tanner’s family put together a GoFundMe fundraiser to help pay for his recovery. Any extra money raised will go to the Home of Hope orphanage in Zambia.  

Tourist fights crocodile after trying to take selfie with it

X

There’s nothing more embarrassing than slipping and falling down. Except perhaps, slipping and falling on top of a crocodile.

27-year-old Danish backpacker Johnny Bonde and his girlfriend Kirsty Jacobs had been travelling around Australia on a year-long trip that was going swimmingly — right up until Bonde tried to get a selfie with a crocodile in the far north of Western Australia.

Upon spotting the croc, the pair tried to capture a selfie from a safe distance. However, a slip in his footing saw Bonde tumble straight down the riverbank and smack on top of the napping reptile. Good one.

“He got my arm and shook me … It was the result of me being stupid,” Bonde told Perth Now. “If somebody body slammed me at night, I would be angry too.”

Bonde managed to get free of the terrifying beast and clambered back up the bank to his girlfriend, saying he felt “a bit weird” in the arm, then noticing it was bleeding.

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Once returning to the caravan park, the couple went to the local hospital where The West Australian reported he was treated for deep lacerations to his forearm.

The now-wiser traveller has since posted a word of caution on Facebook for his fellow intrepid backpackers, saying, “Don’t swim, pet, play or land on any crocs! You will end up with a sore arm or even worse no arm.”

Stingray injuries spike at Southern California beach

NOW PLAYINGStingray Attacks in California

Authorities say there’s been a spike in stingray injuries at a Southern California beach even as water temperatures cool.

The Orange County Register reports Sunday that Huntington Beach Marine Safety Lt. Claude Panis says there were 17 reports of injuries on Thursday and another 10 on Friday.

He says stingray injuries tend to occur when the water is warmer and waves are smaller but have been reported amid cooler water temperatures and bigger swells.

Signs have been posted to warn beachgoers. Panis says people have gotten stung during low tide in the afternoon.

He did not know the reason for the surge.

‘Beardog’ discovery offers clues to how canines evolved

This undated illustration provided by Monica Jurik and The Field Museum in Chicago, shows the artist's reconstruction of an early 38 million year-old beardog.

This undated illustration provided by Monica Jurik and The Field Museum in Chicago, shows the artist’s reconstruction of an early 38 million year-old beardog.  (Monica Jurik/The Field Museum via AP)

For decades a fossilized carnivore jawbone sat largely unnoticed in a drawer at Chicago’s Field Museum.

Now the scientist who grew curious when he opened that drawer has established with a colleague that the fossil belonged to an early, long-extinct relative of dogs, foxes and weasels known as a beardog. The Field Museum fossil and another at the University of Texas each represent a new genus, the taxonomic rank above species.

The researchers believe these beardogs, which lived up to 40 million years ago, may eventually tell the world more about the evolution of dogs and other carnivores and how animals adapt to changes in climate.

According to a paper to be published Wednesday in the journal Royal Society Open Science, the jawbones belonged to two closely related types of Chihuahua-sized beardogs, new genera now named Gustafsonia and Angelarctocyon.

The Field Museum fossil set off the research by post-doctoral researcher Susumu Tomiya, who works at the museum and spends much time taking care of its large collection of fossils.

“In my spare time I like to walk around the aisles in the collections and open up drawers,” he said. “One day I just stumbled on these interesting-looking jaws of a little carnivore.”

The fossil was discovered in Texas in 1946 and 30 years ago was loosely classified as some type of carnivore. But no one knew where it fit into the carnivore family, said Tomiya, who authored the paper with Jack Tseng of the State University of New York at Buffalo.

The teeth stood out to Tomiya. They had flatter surfaces for crushing that suggested their owners ate more than meat — maybe berries and bugs, too, like present-day foxes.

The teeth reminded Tomiya of beardogs he was familiar with, he said. But the types of beardogs he knew were much larger predators that were the size of a bear and once roamed parts of North America, Europe, Asia and Africa.

The researchers also compared the fossil with one written about in an earlier paper at the University of Texas. Tomiya and Tseng concluded both belonged in what had essentially been a blank spot in the branch of the mammalian tree that includes dogs, raccoons, weasels and similar animals. Beardogs evolved alongside the ancient cousins of present-day dogs, cats, bears and other carnivores.

The evolution of beardogs from the small varieties classified by Tomiya and Tseng to the much larger animals that needed more food and habitat seems to match evolutionary paths of other animals that led to extinction, Tomiya said. Beardogs were extinct by 5 million to 10 million years ago, he said.

Studying how the diversity of beardogs waxed and waned over time could tell us about larger patterns in carnivore evolution,” he said.

The two genera of small beardogs also lived at a time of climate transition in North America, from subtropical to cooler and relatively dry. Further study could help answer questions about what kinds of animals adapted well to that change, Tomiya said.

The new research is interesting in part because the fossils were found in North America, said Steven Wallace, a geosciences professor at East Tennessee State University and curator at the East Tennessee Natural History Museum.

Beyond that, Tomiya and Tseng’s work is a reminder to scientists that discoveries don’t just come from fresh digs in far-flung locales.

“It’s almost like they feel that once a specimen’s been described, they’ve learned everything they can from it,” Wallace said. “Sometimes the coolest discoveries come right out of a museum.”