The grave wolf was a distinct species, distinct from the gray wolf, biologists discover

15,000 years ago two wolves (lower left) encountered a pack of fierce wolves on a bison carcass in southwestern North America. Credit: Art by Mauricio Anton

The iconic, prehistoric terrifying wolf, which passed through the United States 11 years ago in Los Angeles and elsewhere, was a different species from a small gray wolf, an international team of scientists reported today in the magazine. Nature.

The study, which unravels a mystery that biologists have pondered for over 100 years, was led by researchers at UCLA, along with colleagues from Durham University in the UK, Adelaide University in Australia and Ludwig Maxillion University in Germany with.

Robert Wayne of UCLA, a distinguished professor, stated, “The terrifying sinister wolf, a mythological symbol of Los Angeles and La Brea tar pits, has earned its place among many large, unique species that went extinct at the end of the Pleistocene era. happened.” Co-senior author of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Studies. The Pleistocene, commonly called the Ice Age, ended about 11,700 years ago.

More than 4,000 grave wolves have been excavated from La Brea tar pits, but little is known by scientists about the reasons for their development or their eventual disappearance. Brown wolves are also found in pits containing fossils, which are still alive.

“The lead wolf has always been an iconic representation of the last ice age in America, but what we know about his developmental history is limited by what we can see from the shape and size of his bones,” co-lead author Angela said. Perry of Durham University.

Those bones are now very much appearing. Using state-of-the-art molecular approaches to analyze five severe wolf genomes from fossilized bones dating from 13,000 to 50,000 years ago, researchers were able to recreate the evolutionary history of long-extinct carnivores for the first time.

Significantly, they found no evidence for gene flow between nomadic wolves and either North American gray wolves or coyotes. The absence of any genetic infection indicates that severe wolves have evolved in isolation from the Ice Age ancestors of these other species.

“We have found that the hard wolf is not closely related to the gray wolf. Further, we have shown that the hard wolf never interferes with the gray wolf,” said co-lead author Alice Mutton, who wrote UCLA postdoctoral forms Conducted research in. Scholar in ecology and evolutionary biology in Wayne’s laboratory.

The ancestors of the gray wolf and the much smaller coyote evolved in Eurasia and are thought to have migrated to North America 1.37 million years ago, relatively recently in development time. On the other hand, the severe wolf, based on its genetic difference from that species, is now thought to have originated in the Americas.

“When we first started this study, we thought that terrifying wolves were just beefed-up gray wolves, so we were surprised to discover how different they were genetically, so much that they couldn’t possibly interfere. , “Said the final of the study. The author, Laurent Frantz, is a professor at Ludwig Maximilian University and Queen Mary University, UK. “This must mean that nomadic wolves were isolated in North America for a long time so that they could be genetically isolated.”

“Dyer Wools is sometimes depicted as mythical creatures — giant wolves fiercely landlocked landslides, but the reality is even more interesting,” said Koiren Mitchell of Adelaide University.

The dreaded wolf was a ‘lone wolf’ when it came to breeding

Interbreeding is quite common among wolf lineages when their geographic range overlaps. Modern gray wolves and coyotes, for example, are often interbreed in North America. Nevertheless, researchers using a data set that included a Pleistocene grave wolf, 22 modern North American gray wolves and coyotes, and three ancient dogs, found that the severe wolf interfered with none of the others Was – likely because it was genetically incapable. To breed with that species.

“Despite substantial range overlap during the Ler Pleistocene, there is no evidence for gene flow between strict wolves and gray wolves or coyotes, suggesting that the common ancestor of gray wolves and coyotes is probably of terrible wolf ancestry. Have evolved in geographical isolation from members., ”Said Wayne. “This result is consistent with the hypothesis that wolves were severely originated in America.”

Another hypothesis about the severe wolf — an untold one in the present study — concerns its extinction. It is generally thought that due to their body size – larger than gray wolves and coyotes – the dire wolf was more specialized for hunting large prey and was unable to survive the extinction of its regular food sources. The lack of interbending may have hastened his demise, suggesting Mouton, now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Lijs, Belgium.

“Perhaps the inability of the stray wolves to not provide the necessary new traits that might have allowed them to survive,” she said.

Uncover the mystery of the terrible wolf’s DNA

While the wolves indexed in this study had no ancestry from gray wolves, coyotes, or their recent North American ancestors, comparing the DNA of nomadic wolves with a wide variety of species such as dense wolves, coyotes, and other wolves is common but far away. Evolutionary relationship of.

“The witch’s ancestors feared deviations from those wolves probably more than 5 million years ago – it was a big surprise to find that this deviation happened so quickly,” Mouton said. “This discovery highlights how special and unique the dire wolf was.”

Based on their genomic analyzes, the researchers also concluded that there are three primary lineages that descend from shared lineages: severe wolves, African jackals, and a group that includes all other extant wolf-like species, including the gray wolf.

Gray wolves, which today mostly live in the wilderness and remote areas of North America, are more closely associated with African wild dogs and wolves of Ethiopia, Wayne said.

This is the first study to report genome-wide data on severe wolves.

Genomic analysis was conducted in a joint effort by UCLA, Durham University, Oxford University, University of Adelaide, Ludwig Maximilian University and Queen Mary University – it focuses on both the nuclear genome and the Mitochondonian genome, which is abundant in ancient remains. .

“The low cost of sequencing analysis, in addition to state-of-the-art molecular biology methods for highly degraded materials, allows us to recover DNA from fossils,” Mouton said. “Ancient DNA genomic analyzes represent an incredible tool to better understand the evolutionary history of ancient and extinct species.”

Wolves have been packaged for at least 1.3 million years

more information:
Grim wolves were the last of the descendants of an ancient New World, Nature (2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s41586-020-03082-x,

Provided by University of California, Los Angeles

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