Cynodictis (Greek for "in-between dog"); pronounced SIGH-no-DIK-tiss
Plains of North America
Late Eocene-Early Oligocene (37-28 million years ago)
Size and Weight:
About two feet long and 5-10 pounds
Long, narrow muzzle; low-slung body
As has happened with so many other once-obscure prehistoric animals, Cynodictis owes its current popularity to its cameo appearances on the BBC series Walking with Beasts: in one episode, this early carnivore was shown chasing away a juvenile Indricotherium, and in another, it was a quick snack for a passing Ambulocetus (not a very convincing scenario, since this "walking whale" wasn't much bigger than its presumed prey!)
Until recently, it was widely believed that Cynodictis was the first true "canid," and thus lay at the root of 30 million years of dog evolution. Today, though, its relationship to modern dogs is more dubious: Cynodictis seems to have been a close relative of Amphicyon (better known as the "Bear Dog"), a type of carnivore that succeeded the giant creodonts of the Eocene epoch. Whatever its ultimate classification, Cynodictis certainly behaved like a proto-dog, chasing down small, furry prey on the boundless plains of North America (and possibly digging them out of shallow burrows as well).