Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Dire wolves weren’t that much like wolves!

Oh, this is super cool! Except now it makes me really want to re-name dire wolves — I mean the common name. Listen to this:

When researchers sequenced the extinct predator’s genome, they found it wasn’t a wolf at all but instead a distinct lineage that split off from the rest of the canines some 5.7 million years ago … Though the bones of the dire wolf are so similar to today’s gray wolves that paleontologists sometimes have trouble telling them apart, the genes told an entirely different story … dire wolf DNA also showed that the species’ lineage is separate from the other living branches of the canine evolutionary tree, including African jackals, coyotes and dogs. To reflect the dire wolf’s now lonely perch on its very own branch of the canine evolutionary tree, researchers propose giving it a new scientific name: Aenocyon dirus.

The image at the link re-imagines “dire wolves” as canids with shorter coats of a reddish color — basically dhole coloration and coat type. While possible — and cool — and a good way of emphasizing that “dire wolves” weren’t wolves — this isn’t likely. One thing we definitely know is that dire wolves were predominantly a cold-climate species. I suspect that it’s more likely the coat was much more wolf-like than dhole-like.

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