Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dire Wolf

Canis dirus
If you are a fan of George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, then today is a day you've surely been waiting on.. for six long years. Book readers will know today's animal as a massive, cattle-sized wolf that has a magical link with humans.

Now, Dire Wolves really did exist thousands of years ago, but they were much smaller than their fictional counterparts, and I can safely say they didn't have any magic behind them either. Nonetheless, they still posses the record for being the largest canine species.

Dire Wolves lived between 1.8 million and 10,000 years ago on the continents of North and South America. They are not the direct ancestors of Grey Wolves, they actually lived alongside them for thousands of years, similar to how Neanderthals and Humans coexisted.

Dire Wolf skulls from La Brea
If you compare the body sizes of the Grey and Dire wolves, you will notice that the Dire Wolf was only slightly larger. They did, however, have larger, broader skulls, broader, shorter legs, and massive teeth that could crush bone.

Like many of the other "Megafauna" species of the Pleistocene, the Dire Wolf went extinct near the end of the last Ice Age. The first Dire Wolf specimen was uncovered in Evansville, Indiana in 1854. Literally thousands more have been located in excavations undertaken at the La Brea Tar Pits in California.

Status : Extinct for 10,000 years
Location : North and South America
Size : Length up to 5ft (1.5m), Weight up to 175lbs (79kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Carnivora
Family : Canidae -- Genus : Canis -- Species : †C. dirus

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