Life reconstruction of Tapocyon robustus, a species of miacid
The order Carnivora belongs to a group of mammals known as Laurasiatheria, which also includes other groups such as bats and ungulates. Within this group the carnivorans are placed in the clade Ferae. Ferae includes the closest extant relative of carnivorans, the pangolins, as well as several extinct groups of mostly Paleogene carnivorous placentals such as the creodonts, the arctocyonians, and Carnivora can be divided into two subclades: the cat-like Feliformia and the dog-like Caniformia which are differentiated based on the structure of their ear bones and cranial features. The feliforms include families such as the cats, the hyenas, the mongooses and the viverrids. The majority of feliform species are found in the Old World, though the cats and one extinct genus of hyena have successfully diversified into the Americas. The caniforms include the dogs, bears, raccoons, weasels, and pinnipeds. Members of this group are found worldwide and with incredible diversity in their diet, behavior, and morphology. Despite this the two groups of carnivorans share several unique traits, one being the presence of the carnassial teeth. In carnivorans the carnassial pair is made up by the fourth upper premolar and the first lower molar teeth. There is variation among the carnassial pair depending on the family. Some species are cursorial and the foot posture in terrestrial species is either digitigrade or plantigrade. In pinnipeds the feet have become flippers where the locomotion is unique in each of the pinniped families.
After primates, carnivorans are arguably the group of mammals of most interest to humans. The dog is noteworthy for not only being the first species of carnivoran to be domesticated, but also the first species of any organism. In the last 10,000 to 12,000 years humans have selectively bred dogs for a variety of different tasks and today there are well over 400 breeds. The cat is another domesticated carnivoran and it is today considered one of the most successful species on the planet, due to their close proximity to humans and the popularity of cats as pets. Many other species are popular, and they are often charismatic megafauna. Many civilizations have incorporated a species of carnivoran into their culture such as the lion, viewed as royalty. Yet many species such as wolves and the big cats have been broadly hunted, resulting in extirpation in some areas. Habitat loss and human encroachment as well as climate change have been the primary cause of many species going into decline. Four species of carnivorans have gone extinct since the 1600s: Falkland Island Wolf (Dusicyon australis) in 1876; the Sea Mink (Neovison macrodon) in 1894; the Japanese Sea Lion (Zalophus japonicus) in 1951 and the Caribbean Monk Seal (Neomonachus tropicalis) in 1952. Some species such as the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and stoat (Mustela erminea) have been introduced to Australasia that have caused many native species to become endangered or even extinct.
The order Carnivora belongs to a group of mammals known as Laurasiatheria, which also includes other groups such as bats and ungulates. Within this group the carnivorans are placed in the clade Ferae. Ferae includes the closest extant relative of carnivorans, the pangolins, as well as several extinct groups of mostly Paleogene carnivorous placentals such as the creodonts, the arctocyonians, and mesonychians. The creodonts were originally thought of as the sister taxon to the carnivorans, perhaps even ancestral to, based on the presence of the carnassial teeth. but the nature of the carnassial teeth is different between the two groups. In carnivorans the carnassials are positioned near the front of the molar row, while in the creodonts they are positioned near the back of the molar row. and this suggests a separate evolutionary history and an order-level distinction. In addition recent phylogenetic analysis suggests that creodonts are more closely related to pangolins while mesonychians might be the sister group to carnivorans and their stem-relatives.
The closest stem-carnivorans are the miacoids. The miacoids include the families Viverravidae and Miacidae, and together the Carnivora and Miacoidea form the stem-clade Carnivoramorpha. The miacoids were small, gennet-like carnivoramorphs that occupy a variety of niches such as terrestrial and arboreal habitats. Recent studies have shown a supporting amount of evidence that Miacoidea is an evolutionary grade of carnivoramorphs that, while viverravids are monophyletic basal group, the miacids are paraphyletic in respect to Carnivora (as shown in the phylogeny below).