End of Ice Age was end for Alaskan wolves

This video is about wolves living today.

From Smithsonian in the USA:

Ice Age extinction claimed highly carnivorous Alaskan wolves

The extinction of many large mammals at the end of the Ice Age may have packed an even bigger punch than scientists have realized. To the list of victims such as woolly mammoths and saber-toothed cats, a Smithsonian-led team of scientists has added one more: a highly carnivorous form of wolf that lived in Alaska, north of the ice sheets.

Wolves were generally thought to have survived the end-Pleistocene extinction relatively unscathed. But this previously unrecognized type of wolf appears to have vanished without a trace some 12,000 years ago.

The study, which will be published in the June 21 online issue of Current Biology, combined genetic and chemical analyses with more conventional paleontological study of the morphology, or form, of the fossilized skeletal remains. This multifaceted approach allowed the researchers to trace the ancient wolves’ genetic relationships with modern-day wolves, as well as understand their role in the ancient ecosystem.

“Being able to say all of those things—having a complete picture—is really unusual,” said lead author Jennifer Leonard, a research associate with the Smithsonian Genetics Program, and currently at Uppsala University in Sweden.

The researchers extracted mitochondrial DNA from the fossil wolf bones preserved in permafrost and compared the sequences, called haplotypes, with those of modern-day wolves in Alaska and throughout the world. The fossils showed a wide range of haplotypes—greater in fact than their modern counterpart—but there was no overlap with modern wolves. This was unexpected.

“We thought possibly they would be related to Asian wolves instead of American wolves because North America and Asia were connected during that time period. That they were completely unrelated to anything living was quite a surprise,” Leonard said.

The result implies that the Alaskan wolves died out completely, leaving no modern descendents. After the extinction, the Alaskan habitat was probably recolonized by wolves that survived south of the ice sheet in the continental United States, Leonard said.

The ancient Alaskan wolves differed from modern wolves not only in their genes, but also in their skulls and teeth, which were robust and more adapted for forceful bites and shearing flesh than are those of modern wolves. They also showed a higher incidence of broken teeth than living wolves.

“Taken together, these features suggest a wolf specialized for killing and consuming relatively large prey, and also possibly habitual scavenging,” Leonard said.

Chemical analyses of the bones back up this conclusion. Carbon and nitrogen isotope values of the Alaskan wolf bones are intermediate between those of potential prey species—mammoth, bison, musk ox and caribou—suggesting that their diet was a mix of these large species.

The cause of Pleistocene extinction (called the “megafaunal” extinction because of the large size of many of its victims) is controversial. It has been variously blamed on human hunting or climate change, or on a combination of factors as the Ice Age waned.

For the specialized Alaskan wolves, the story is perhaps less complicated. “When their prey disappeared, these wolves did as well,” Leonard said. But the results of this study also imply that the effects of the extinction were broader than previously thought. “There may be other extinctions of unique Pleistocene forms yet to be discovered,” she added.

See also here.

North American dire wolf Pleistocene fossils: here.

New Ideas About Human Migration From Asia To Americas: here.

North American carnivores eating fruits in fall: here.

Genetic information from an extinct species of bison preserved in permafrost for thousands of years could help improve modern agricultural livestock and breeding programs, according to University of Adelaide researchers: here.

4 thoughts on “End of Ice Age was end for Alaskan wolves

  1. September 22, 2008 01:09 pm

    Dire wolf in Marlow

    Skull Replica presented to lions
    Derrick Miller
    The Duncan Banner

    MARLOW — MARLOW — History has played a significant role in shaping the present and future of Marlow.

    Every Marlow student knows the story of the Marlow Brothers. While the brothers may have made the biggest impact on the town, there are lesser-known legends that have also marked a spot in Marlow’s memory books.

    One, for instance, was fairly sizable with sharp teeth and a bad temper.

    During the Wednesday’s Marlow Lions Club meeting, Richard Cifelli of the University of Oklahoma Zoology Department and the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History presented the replica of a dire wolf skull to members present. This replica is a likeness of a dire wolf skull discovered in Marlow.

    The known history of the wolf’s skull and skeleton dates back to 1920 when Marlow was building a new high school.

    During the process, the skeleton, curled up as if asleep, was found in the wolf’s den. The animal, a member of a species that would have gone extinct 8,000 to 10,000 years prior, died at a mature age in its den.

    “This is probably the best specimen ever found,” Cifelli said. “It’s an unusual specimen.”

    Several things set the discovery apart from other dire wolf remains. The skeleton was well preserved and is one of only two found in Oklahoma. The skull and jaws are also larger than other dire wolf skeletons found.

    The dire wolf is similar to the better known gray wolf. But there are several significant differences. The dire wolf has a bigger skull, larger jaws, shorter legs, a broader torso and is thought to have been a scavenger.

    Cifelli described the wolf as being “nastier than a timber wolf” but being about the same size. Dire wolves fall into the category of Pleistocene fossils, which are rarely found, he said.

    He has been working with Marlow since about 1998. He was called when the Outlaw Cave, hideout of the Marlow Brothers, was discovered. It is because of this rapport that he was glad he got to present the skull replica to be put on display in the Marlow Museum.

    “I’m honored,” he said. “It was a great pleasure.

    “This has been a great springboard to meet people.”

    After the discovery in 1920, the original skeleton was taken by Harry Higgins Lane, a zoologist, to the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. It was stored in back with many other specimens the museum didn’t have room for on the show floor.

    It wasn’t until the late 1990s that Cifelli heard about Marlow’s dire wolf.

    Since then, he has studied the skeleton, while someone else made the replica of the skull for the town. The original is now on display in the Smithsonian, Cifelli said.

    He said Marlow’s dire wolf is just one of many creatures and histories waiting to be discovered.

    “There’s lots of treasures to be found,” he said. “Hopefully, this is just the beginning of our work together, not the end.”



  2. Pingback: Arctic wolf spiders and climate change | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Pleistocene wolf discovery in Siberia | Dear Kitty. Some blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.