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Ice Age extinction claimed highly carnivorous Alaskan wolves

kan 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.
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Source:Smithsonian


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