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Following the retreat of ice from the last ice age (the Late Glacial) some 15,000 years ago, many of the larger mammal species began to re-appear and extend their range northwards.
According to Derek Yalden’s fascinating book, , post-glacial remains of the Red fox have been found at several sites around Britain and suggest that this species re-appeared ‘naturally’ (i.e.
) to appear on the continent migrated (again, presumably across the Bering land bridge) from Europe at the end of the Pleistocene (around 1 mya) and, from here, Red and Arctic foxes colonised much of North America.
If, at this point, you’re wondering where mammals like mustelids, seals, bears, etc. The evolutionary history of the dog family is still not completely resolved (and may never be, as new fossil finds and molecular techniques offer new insights), but the following is a generally accepted hypothesis.
Readers interested in a more detailed appraisal of dog evolution are directed to Xiaoming Wang and Richard Tedford’s authoritative account in their 2008 book and I recommend the reader visits Wiki Pedia and The Searching Wolf.
Nonetheless, taxonomists (those who study how species are related to each other) currently think that the carnivorans evolved from animals called miacids, which were small tree-living mammals that looked similar to modern-day civets.
At some point -- by current thinking, around 42 million years ago (mya), during the mid-Eocene -- it appears that the carnivorans split into the two groups, or suborders, that we recognise as cat-like (Feliformia) and dog-like (Caniformia).