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Why Do Dogs Have Backbones?

Scientists believe that dogs have backbones because they evolved from the same ancestors as us. They use the bones, like our fingers, to help them find food! Learn more about the evolution of dogs in this video.

Dogs need to have backbones for the same reason we need those long, long tails: Dogs need to be able to find the food we throw in their way. It sounds totally silly, but that’s the basis for how dogs work. They have to be able to use the bones of their back to help them work, but this is something they do almost automatically as a biological necessity. They’ve been around longer than we have and have had a pretty easy evolution to us.

Why Can’t We Be Dumb Too?

We all know the phrase “dumbfounded by evolution.” We’re going to find out exactly why dogs evolved backbones.

The Evolution of Dogs

In the 1970s, paleontologist John Beringer stumbled across some fossil evidence for dogs’ origins. He made the startling discovery that many species of mammals from that part of the earth were very similar. He also found a few things in common between them – a large and powerful tail, strong shoulder muscles and thick legs.

What was going on here? Beringer hypothesized that these primitive species came up with their unique features, such as the strong tail, based on one idea. He called this idea, the “tipping hypothesis.” There was one other factor that helped to explain this. One group of mammals had a big toe like a human, yet no backbones. The group was early man. He named them “anthropoids.” They were also the best examples of evolution happening in the world. They had the same kind of complex and highly developed features as early humans. It could be a natural extension of the “tipping hypothesis.”

The Tipping Hypothesis

To support his theory, Beringer decided to look over the evolutionary tree. He made a list of the most common features common between these various mammals. The first thing he found was that the root of this tree was the early man. He also discovered a third creature on the list – an animal with a tail very similar to ours. This was the earliest form of dog. What was going on? That was the tipping of the evolutionary tree. “The oldest group which has a tail much like ours is the anthropoids, which have the largest toe in the animal kingdom.” He wrote. He believed that this creature, named Dog, came up with its tail like ours because of the same reason we had our tail. It had to stay attached to a very strong shoulder muscle to work. He named this creature “Dog” because this type of evolution happens over time.

What Next?

You may think, “what about the evolution of humans!?” Well, they are on a much longer evolutionary tree, having evolved from apes to what we are today. Beringer was quick to point out that humans could not share the same traits as apes. The first common trait between them was their large brains. Humans had a tail as a big as ours, but with weaker shoulder muscles and no backbones. They could not possibly have evolved from apes, as some had hoped. It was not until the second common trait found on the tree that they could possibly be a common ancestor. It was the lack of backbones. “For the first time in the history of evolution an animal can be defined by the fact that it has no backbones.” Beringer explained. “Dog.”

In the 1990s, the evidence accumulated in the world’s museums and science labs to support Beringer’s theory. Scientists were able to show that we are more closely related to the anthropoids than we thought. Dogs also had backbones. Humans, on the other hand, did not – not even close.