The Dire Wolf, Not Just in Westeros

Fossil dire wolf skeleton

The dire wolf (Canis dirus, “fearsome dog”) was a prehistoric carnivore of the Western Hemisphere in the late Pleistocene Epoch (125,000–10,000 years ago). The extinct species probably evolved from Armbruster’s wolf (Canis armbrusteri).

The dire wolf was about the same size as the Yukon and Northwestern wolves, the largest modern gray wolves (Canis lupus). Its skull and dentition matched those of the gray wolf, but its teeth were larger with greater shearing ability, and its bite force at the canine tooth was the strongest of any known Canis species. These adaptations allowed it to hunt, probably in packs, for Late Pleistocene megaherbivores.

In North America it competed with the sabre-toothed cat for prey including horsesslothsmastodonsbison, and camels. Dire wolf remains have been found across a broad range of habitats including the plains, grasslands, and some forested mountain areas of North America, and in the arid savannah of South America. The largest collection of dire wolf fossils comes from the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles; its latest remains date from 9,440 years ago.

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