Dire wolves were the last of an ancient New World canid lineage
Evolutionary genetics, Palaeontology, Plylogenetics, Speciation
Dire wolves are considered to be one of the most common and widespread large carnivores in Pleistocene America1, yet relatively little is known about their evolution or extinction. Here, to reconstruct the evolutionary history of dire wolves, we sequenced five genomes from sub-fossil remains dating from 13,000 to more than 50,000 years ago. Our results indicate that although they were similar morphologically to the extant grey wolf, dire wolves were a highly divergent lineage that split from living canids around 5.7 million years ago. In contrast to numerous examples of hybridization across Canidae2,3, there is no evidence for gene flow between dire wolves and either North American grey wolves or coyotes. This suggests that dire wolves evolved in isolation from the Pleistocene ancestors of these species. Our results also support an early New World origin of dire wolves, while the ancestors of grey wolves, coyotes and dholes evolved in Eurasia and colonized North America only relatively recently.
Perri, Angela; Kieren J. Mitchell; Alice Mouton; Sandra Alvarez-Carretero; Ardern Hulme-Beaman; Jaimes Haile; Alexandra Jamieson; Julie Meachen; Audrey T. Lin; Blaine W. Schubert; Carly Ameen; Ekaterina E. Antipina; Pere Bover; Selina Brace; Alberto Carmagnini; Christian Carøe; Jose A. Samaniego Castruita; James C. Chatters; Keith Dobney; Mario dos Reis; Allowen Evin; Phillippe Gaubert; Shyam Gopalakrishnan; Graham Gower; Holly Heiniger; Kristofer M. Helgen; Josh Kapp; Pavel A. Kosintsev; Anna Linderholm; Andrew T. Ozga; Samantha Presslee; Alexander T. Salis; Nedda F. Saremi; Colin Shew; Katherine Skerry; Dmitry E. Taranenko; Mary Thompson; Mikhail V. Sablin; Yaroslav V. Kuzmin; Matthew J. Collins; Mikkel-Holger S. Sinding; M. Thomas P. Gilbert; Anne C. Stone; Beth Shapiro; Blaire Van Valkenburgh; Robert K. Wayne; Greger Larson; Alan Cooper; and Laurent A. F. Frantz. 2021. "Dire wolves were the last of an ancient New World canid lineage." Nature 2021, (). doi:10.1038/s41586-020-03082-x.