Thursday, February 4, 2021

Dire Wolves

 From National Geographic:

In the first study of its kind, researchers have analyzed several full genomes for these creatures, revealing a few surprises. Rather than sharing close genetic ties with the gray wolf (Canis lupus), as was expected from their resemblance, the dire wolves were evolutionarily distant cousins, long isolated in the Americas.

“Dire wolves and gray wolves look super similar morphologically, but the genetics say they are not related closely in any way,” explains Angela Perri, an archaeologist at Durham University, and co-author of a paper on dire wolf genetics published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The new findings clarify relationships among members of the dog family, placing dire wolves (Canis dirus) in a New World lineage that split from the gray wolf's ancestors some 5.5 million years ago, while further deepening the mystery around the dire wolf’s evolution and eventual extinction.

“The question now becomes: Is their extinction related to climatic and environmental change, or did humans and potentially other wolves and dogs and [diseases] coming in assist in pushing them out?” Perri says. (Read more.)


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