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The 'Before' Picture

Imagine if African Wild Dogs developed the ability to float. There is no scientific explanation to how they can float; it's just happened and we do not need to know why. The dogs can only gain this ability in early adulthood, so they remain land animals through childhood. Lastly, it is very tiring to float for a sustained period, so their forays into the air would have to be in short bursts.

They can float constantly at a particular height, or fly upwards to a certain altitude (at a fair clip), or dive at faster than gravity acceleration and even slow down at will. Obviously, they can't do much in terms of horizontal movement once they're airborne. Lastly, the ability to float is practically unaffected by the weight of the dogs.

The "After" Picture

Millions of years pass. The wild dogs are now predators with wings and four legs. They were already really smart on account of being pretty social, but having to operate and manipulate six limbs instead of four has probably led them to use more of their brains (I'm no expert on this but it seems to make sense).

Question How would the wild dogs have evolved to get here? Are wings even a possibility or do they become super-hoppers?

EDIT: Just to be clear the idea is to have a somewhat logical evolutionary path from "before" to "after". We don't need to know how and why they float, but rather what happens after that. Do remember that we're talking about African Wild Dogs in particular, and not just any land animal, so the more your answer incorporates that the better it is! If the most logical evolutionary path does not lead to the above "after" situation, then the alternative is also welcome!

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    $\begingroup$ It looks you said that the wild dogs developed the ability without scientific explanation, but then you said they evolved. Are you asking how they evolved? Are you asking for a reality check or if you asking to explain what happened? I'm pretty sure one can come up with something to explain it. My motto on this site is "anything is possible". The change in their behaviour and physical traits could be pretty broad, especially if you include the supposed intelligence difference (and I'm not sure that directly follows). Do you want to try and narrow that down a bit? $\endgroup$ – DonyorM Feb 11 '16 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ Yes that looks better. I've also added the creature design tag, since I think it fits. You could consider adding a mythical-creatures tag if you want. $\endgroup$ – DonyorM Feb 11 '16 at 13:40
  • $\begingroup$ So, you're wondering how African wild dogs can evolve to have wings and to float? $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Feb 11 '16 at 14:10
  • $\begingroup$ @XandarTheZenon 5:They float. I don't need to know why. I'm just wondering if and how they evolve to have wings. Its entirely possible they never do evolve wings, so if there's a logical extrapolation for that, I'd be more than happy to receive that! $\endgroup$ – Ambarish Sathianathan Feb 11 '16 at 14:16
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    $\begingroup$ It's not till the end of the first paragraph that you mention "air". It's confusing, as "float" normally means swimming. I think "hover" would be a better word, esp. since they have a set height above the ground, which is in contrast to how boyancy works, and you are clearly talking about something other than being lighter than air! $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Feb 19 '16 at 3:27
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They are unlikely to evolve a bony wing. The third set of limbs requires a lot of restructuring that would be too costly and unnecessary. The wing is an organ that provides lift something you already have. The modifications that would be more useful would be ones for propulsion and steering.

So no easy griffin-form dog. On the other hand, modification of the existing limbs to our needs would be easier. For a model, we look at creatures for which buoyancy is a given. The answer is fish which would involve a turning of limbs into air fins and tails turning our African dogs into air sharks.

except the floating is temporary and costly to maintain so what we have is a water adapted mammal. Like an uber-Otter. long body and big webbed feet [much bigger than the otters because air is a bit thinner than water] give it the form it needs to not only go straight up but turns it into an amphibious (land/air) predator.

Would they be smarter? I would say not necessarily so, even if larger brain size and computational power is needed to navigate its more complicated world increases, general intelligence is not bound to increase.

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It's very hard to imagine how they would magically develop an ability to float and somehow grow wings afterward. Especially since the way of floating you describe sounds more like turning them into blimps.

African wild dogs actually lose hair as they age and they only have a single layer of fur. A mutation could result in excessive skin that could somehow turn them on the path of the flying squirrel. Following this path, evolution could turn them into winged creatures.

The other way this could happen (even less realistic but does follow your question): Bloat is fairly common in dogs. The stomach rotates and gas cannot escape. Perhaps in early adulthood, they will strengthen muscles that would allow them to rotate their stomach on their own accord. At this point, however, all you have is a dog that can force itself to have stomach bloat.

An enlargened stomach, a certain bacteria that would produce highly buoyant gas, multiple stomachs or a combination of these factors could, in time, result in a dog able to float and land at will. Especially with multiple stomachs, it would be possible to land safely.

Now you have your weird dog floating on fart power. It would take a while to gather the gas needed and it would be painful and tiring to sustain for a long time. While I still don't see them ever growing 2 wins out of nowhere, as explained at the start they could evolve to have excessive skin behind their front legs, enabling them to fly.

Edit:

As to why they would float: For hunting purposes, it would serve no goal unless you want to go and make them ambush predators. African wild dogs are actually one of the weaker predators living in Africa and they do get preyed upon. The ability to float could be a way to flee from predators or even get into a safe tree. Another possible reason could be to scout for prey or predators from up high since they live in large areas of land.

Flight would obviously make them better hunters.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks LordJJ. Though the flappy hind leg skin is an idea worth exloring, the answer appears to focus more on WHY the dogs float, rather than details on what happens after. There is no "evolutionary path", so to speak. $\endgroup$ – Ambarish Sathianathan Feb 11 '16 at 13:59
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, sorry. Thought you just meant to ask how they could possibly end up floating. It would not be funny if one of these magical fart dogs would unleash their bloat nearby tho! $\endgroup$ – LordJJ Feb 11 '16 at 14:09
  • $\begingroup$ I like the blimp dogs. Especially since they are weaponized. Major nose plugs are required. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Feb 11 '16 at 14:20
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    $\begingroup$ There are examples in nature where winglike limbs/organs (I don't know the proper word) evolved from something else than a limb the flying snake uses its spread ribs as wing analogues, and most insects have wings evolved from their integument and not a limb. I think if the goal is to have a pair of wings in addition to its four legs, those might be evolved from scapula. $\endgroup$ – mg30rg Feb 11 '16 at 15:19
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Maybe they could develop the ability to fly like Flying squirrels after millions of years of evolution, or by laboratory experimentation (the possibility to mate African Wild Dogs with Flying squirrels).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flying_squirrel

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the idea, Javert. Flying squirrel-like dogs does not seem illogical. Any details you could provide on how this transition would take place? The dogs can literally fly upwards and downwards, so how would it make sense for them to evolve gliding apparatus, rather than jumping apparatus? Why not both? I'd really appreciate a slightly more detailed and reasoned out answer. Only because this concept is intriguing! $\endgroup$ – Ambarish Sathianathan Feb 11 '16 at 15:31
  • $\begingroup$ @AmbarishSathianathan If floating is very tiring , and limited to horizontal movement, gliding (which requires no real effort) vertically could be a solution to utilize it. Flying squirrels climb trees to be able to glide, but your dogs would simply float up then glide. $\endgroup$ – mg30rg Feb 11 '16 at 15:36
  • $\begingroup$ @AmbarishSathianathan How about this : in the far future something terrible happened to the earth's surface (it became very hot or very cold) which has forced the African Wild Dogs to climb and live on trees, from that point they needed the ability to move from a tree to another, thus mother nature has granted them the gliding apparatus. $\endgroup$ – Javert Feb 11 '16 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Javert As far as I understood the floating for those dogs is a necessary precursor of the story. $\endgroup$ – mg30rg Feb 11 '16 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ @mg30rg Yes, developing the ability to fly was something inevitable in order to survive. $\endgroup$ – Javert Feb 11 '16 at 15:46

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