Below is an excerpt from a report on recent findings in wolf paleontology. This extinct species of wolf sounds a lot more vicous than the red wolves we have the museum! To read more about the research follow the links at the bottom of the post.
A fearsome über-wolf that once roamed the snowy plains of Alaska may hold warning for the fate of large carnivores today, its discoverers say. The creature’s massive jaws and powerful hulking frame made the wolf a force to be reckoned with, yet molecular and physical evidence indicate that the animal’s specialized features doomed it to extinction around 12,000 years ago.
The fossil wolves had shorter snouts, broader skulls, and bigger teeth than modern North American wolves, the team reports online 21 June in Current Biology
. These features indicate that the ancient wolf was a “hypercarnivore” able to tear apart and consume large prey, such as mammoth, bison, and horses. Genetic analysis revealed that the wolf was not an ancestor of today’s wolves.
But the qualities that made the ancient wolf an expert hunter of large game also appear to have done it in. A combination of human hunting and climate change in the late Pleistocene epoch are believed to have decimated large mammals, eliminating the wolf’s food supply. The gray wolves we see today were able to feed on prey of varying sizes, she says, allowing them to adjust to changes in their environment.
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