Desperate wolves may be lonely survivors of an ancient dynasty

The ancient, extinct grave wolf may be among the loneliest of wolves – genetically so different from its closest wolf relative that it can no longer interbreed, forcing it into an evolutionary dead end when it died 13 years ago. I went.

This is a discovery based on a new study, in-depth analysis of DNA derived from North America’s ancient sinister wolf bones. Once awesome wolves (Canis deras) Originating from gray wolves millions of years ago, they think they have never mingled.

So different, in fact, that he has a genetic descendant from other candles that the research team proposes to put the terrifying wolves into another genus altogether – so that they can be reclassified Anecone virus, As first proposed all the way back in 1918.

Paleobologist Kieren Mitchell of the University of Adelaide in Australia said, “Wolves are sometimes depicted as mythical creatures – giant wolves rubbing the ground with beaks, but the reality becomes even more interesting.”

“Despite the physical similarity between gray wolves and terrifying wolves – suggesting that they may possibly be related in the same way as modern humans and Neanderthals – our genetic results suggest that these two species of wolf are disturbing like humans and chimpanzees Are more like cousins. “

Critical wolf remains can be found in the fossil record dating back to 250,000 to 13,000 years ago, and it seems that carnivorous sightings have prevailed during North America’s last ice age.

In the famous La Breitère pits alone, the dug-out wolves descend from little brown wolves (Canis lupus) More than a hundred times.

But how they diverged, evolved and eventually became extinct at the end of the last glacial period, about 11,700 years ago, has been challenging to piece together. So an international team of scientists is ready to work on only one clue we have: bones.

Archaeologist Angela Perry of Durham said, “Horse wolves have always been an iconographic representation of the last ice age in America, but we know of their evolutionary history that we are limited to the size and shape of their bones. ” University.

But sometimes palaeontological remains may contain other information inside: DNA is well preserved so that it can be sequenced. And this is what the team investigated.

They obtained and sequenced five samples of severe wolf DNA, from Idaho, Ohio, Wyoming and Tennessee, more than 50,000 years ago to 12,900 years ago.

Then, he compared them to genomic data from the eight canadoses that are living today, obtained from a genomic database: gray wolf, coyote (Canis latrans), African wolf (Canis lupster), drum (Qin Alpineas), Ethiopian wolf (Canis Simensis), African wild dog (Lycon Picts), Andean fox (Lycolopex pulpas) And gray fox (Eurosine Synergiantis) is.

He called the Gray Wolf, the Black-backed Jackal (Canis Mesomelas) And side striped jackal (Canis edustus) is.

He found that, unlike other wolves migrating between regions, the fierce wolf stayed, never wandering outside of North America.

And, fascinatingly, even though they have shared space with the coyote and gray wolves for at least 10,000 years, they never interfere with them to produce hybrids.

“When we first started this study, we thought that the fierce wolves were just beefed-up gray wolves, so we were surprised to find out how different they were genetically, so much so that they might not get in the way , “Molecular geneticist Laurent Friedwig Maximilian University in Germany and Queen Mary University in Britain.

“This must mean that nomadic wolves were isolated in North America for a long time so that they could be genetically isolated.”

In fact, according to team analysis, nomadic wolves and brown wolves should have deviated from a common ancestor 5 million years ago. When you consider that dogs and wolves were mutilated between 15,000 and 40,000 years ago, it is indeed a very long time.

Interbreeding between canid species whose area overlaps is quite common. The hybrid of a coyote and a wolf is so common that it has a name – coywolf – and wolf-dog hybrids are not unknown either (although breeding them as pets is highly controversial in the US). So it is highly unusual for nomadic wolves to spend so long in close proximity with the canids without their presence.

And, although the team did not explore this possibility, genetic isolation could have contributed to the eventual demise of the ancient beast, as it did not adapt to a changing world with new traits.

Mitchell stated, “While ancient humans and Neanderthals have intervened, as do modern gray wolves and coyotes, our genetic data have provided no evidence of wolves hatching with any living canine species is.” “All our data point to the serious wolf being the last surviving member of an ancient lineage separated from all living Kansas.”

The research has been published in Nature.


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