The old, extinct gloomy wolf may have been among the wolves’ lonesome – so genetically separated from its nearest wolf genus that it could no longer cross each other and forced it into an evolutionary dead end when it died 13,000 years ago.
It has been found based on a new study, the in-depth analysis of DNA taken from old gloomy wolf bones from all over North America. Once gloomy wolves (The dog is subdued) separated from gray wolves millions of years ago, they never seem to have interfered since.
In fact, their genetic lineage is so different from other canines that the research team suggests that expensive wolves be placed in a completely different genus – that they be reclassified as Aenocyon dirus, which was first proposed as far back as 1
“Dirty wolves are sometimes portrayed as mythical creatures – giant wolves that cast gloomy frozen landscapes – but the reality turns out to be even more interesting,” said paleobiologist Kieren Mitchell of the University of Adelaide in Australia.
“Despite anatomical similarities between gray wolves and gloomy wolves – suggesting that they might be related in the same way as modern humans and Neanderthals – our genetic findings show that these two species of wolves are much more like distant cousins, which humans and chimpanzees. “
Remains of wolf wolves can be found in the fossil record from 250,000 to about 13,000 years ago and seem to have dominated the carnivorous scene during the last ice age in what is now North America.
In the famous La Brea tar holes alone, gloomy wolf individuals dug over the slightly smaller gray wolf (Canis lupus) more than a hundred times.
But how they diverged, evolved, and eventually became extinct toward the end of the last ice age, about 11,700 years ago, has been challenging to put together. So an international team of researchers embarked on one of the only clues we have: bones.
“Creepy wolves have always been an iconic representation of the last ice age in America, but what we know about their evolutionary history has been limited to what we can see from the size and shape of their bones,” said archaeologist Angela Perri from Durham. University.
But sometimes paleontological remains may contain other information inside: DNA preserved well enough to be sequenced. And that’s what the team investigated.
They obtained five samples of dismal wolf DNA from over 50,000 years ago to 12,900 years ago from Idaho, Ohio, Wyoming and Tennessee and sequenced them.
They then compared them with genomic data from eight dogs living today, obtained from a genomic database: gray wolf, coyote (Canis latrans), African wolf (Canis lupaster), dhole (Cuon alpinus), Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis), African wild dog (Lycaon pictus), Andean fox (Lycalopex culpaeus) and gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus).
They also generated new genome sequences for the gray wolf, the black jackal (Canis mesomelas) and the striped jackal (Canis).
They found that the gloomy wolf, unlike other wolves that roamed between regions, remained seated and never came out of North America.
And fascinatingly, even though they shared space with coyotes and gray wolves for at least 10,000 years, they never seem to have interfered with them to produce hybrids.
“When we first started this study, we thought gloomy wolves were just amplified gray wolves, so we were surprised to learn how extremely genetically diverse they were, so much so that they probably could not have interfered,” the molecular geneticist said. Laurent Frantz from Ludwig Maximilian University in Germany and Queen Mary University in the United Kingdom.
“This must mean that gloomy wolves were isolated in North America for a very long time to become so genetically diverse.”
According to the team’s analysis, the expensive wolves and gray wolves must have actually separated from a common ancestor more than 5 million years ago. When one considers that dogs and wolves diverged between 15,000 and 40,000 years ago, it is actually a very long time.
Interbreeding between canid species whose territories overlap is quite common. The hybrid of a coyote and a wolf is so common that it has a name – coywolf – and wolfhound hybrids are also not unknown (although breeding them as pets is extremely controversial in the United States). So for gloomy wolves who have spent so much time near dogs without crossbreeding is very unusual.
And even if the team did not explore this possibility, the genetic isolation could have contributed to the eventual death of the ancient animal, as it was unable to adapt to a changing world with new features.
“While ancient humans and Neanderthals appear to have mingled, like modern gray wolves and coyotes, our genetic data provided no evidence that gloomy wolves mingled with any living dog species,” Mitchell said. “All our data indicate that the gloomy wolf is the last surviving member of an ancient genus that is different from all living dogs.”
The research is published in Nature.