Ancient DNA reveals the secrets of the legendary “Game of Thrones” Dire Wolves

Two gray wolves (bottom left) were confronted by a pack of wolves on a bison corpse in southwestern North America 15,000 years ago. Credit: The art of Mauricio Anto

According to new research, extinct monsters separated from other wolves about six million years ago and were only a distant relative of today’s wolves. Nature.

The monsters, popular on the television show Game of Thrones, spread to North America about 13,000 years ago and have since become extinct.

Research shows that terrifying wolves were so different from other dog species, such as jackals and gray worms, that they could not reproduce with each other. Previous analyzes based solely on morphology have led scientists to believe that terrifying monsters are closely related to gray worms.

The study was led by scientists from the University of Durham in the UK Oxford University, Ludwig Maximilian University in Germany, Adelaide University in Australia and the University of California in the USA.

For the first time, the international team ranked antiques DNA From the bottom fossils of five terrifying monsters dating back 50,000 years from Wyoming, Idaho, Ohio and Tennessee. Their analysis showed that the terrible worms and gray worms were in fact very distant cousins. Ancient DNA was first obtained from these monsters, which reveal a complex history of ice age predators. In collaboration with 49 researchers from nine countries, the genomes of terrifying worms were analyzed alongside canid species such as many different wolves. Their analysis shows that, unlike many canidic species that have migrated repeatedly between North America and Eurasia over time, terrifying monsters have only evolved in North America for millions of years.

Although terrifying monsters overlapped jackals and gray worms in North America at least 10,000 years before their extinction, they found no evidence that they were mixed with these species. Researchers claim that deep evolutionary differences indicate that they are poorly equipped to adapt to changing conditions at the end of the ice age.

Leading author, Dr. from the Department of Archeology, University of Durham. Angela Perry said: “Dire monsters have always been a symbolic representation of the last ice age in America and a symbol of pop culture thanks to the Game of Thrones, but what we know about them is limited by evolutionary history, the size and shape of their bones and teeth.

“With this first ancient DNA analysis of terrible worms, we have discovered that the history of the terrible monsters we think we know, especially our close relationship with gray wolves, is actually more complicated than we previously thought.

“Instead of being closely related to other North American creatures, such as gray wolves and jackals, we have seen terrible monsters represent a branch that separated from others millions of years ago and now represents the last of an extinct lineage.”

Dr Alice Mouton, co-chair of the University of Los Angeles, added: “We saw that the monster had nothing to do with the gray wolf. In addition, we show that the terrible monster has never been confused with the gray wolf. Conversely, gray worms, African worms, dogs, jackals, and jackals can be mixed. More than five million years ago, wolves were separated from gray worms, which was a big surprise for this disagreement to occur early. This finding underscores how special and unique the monster is. ”

The monster is one of the most famous carnivores in the history of the Pleistocene, which disappeared from America 13,000 years ago. Scientifically known as Canis dirus, which means ‘scary dog’, they hunted large mammals such as bison. The team suggests that the drastic evolution of terrifying monsters from gray worms offers them a completely different sex – Aenocyon dirus (‘terrible worm’) – as first proposed by paleontologist John Campbell Merriam 100 years ago.

Co-author from the University of Adelaide, Dr. Kieren Mitchell said: “Dire monsters are sometimes described as mythical creatures – giant monsters roaming frozen landscapes, but the reality is even more interesting.

“Despite the anatomical similarities between gray wolves and terrifying wolves – perhaps we think they may have the same relationship with modern humans and Neanderthals – our genetic results show that these two species of wolves are more like distant cousins ​​than humans and chimpanzees.

“Although ancient humans and Neanderthals looked as confused as modern gray worms and jackals, our genetic data did not provide any evidence that terrible monsters were mixed with any living species. All the information indicates that the terrible monster, unlike all other living things, is the last surviving member of an ancient generation. ”

Dr. Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich Laurent Frantz added: “When we first started, we thought that scary monsters were only as big as gray wolves, so we were surprised to learn that they were genetically very different; so much so that they most likely could not be confused. Hybridization is thought to be very common among canis species, indicating that these terrifying monsters have been isolated for a very long time in North America in order to be so genetically distinct. ”

Dire monsters became extinct about 13,000 years ago, but with the help of fossils, DNA analysis and the Game of Thrones, legends live on.

To learn more about this research, read Ancient DNA Reveals the Secrets of the “Terrible” Dire Wolf.

Reference: “Dire monsters were the last of the ancient New World canidian lineage” by Angela R. Perry, Kieren J. Mitchell, Alice Mouton, Sandra vlvarez-Carretero, Ardern Hulme-Beaman, James 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, Philippe Gaubert, Shyam Gopalakrishnan, Graham Gower, Holly Heiniger, Christopher M. Helgen, Josh Kapp, Pavel A. Kosintsev, Anna Linderholm, Andrew T. Ozga, Samantha Presslee, Alexander T. Salis, Nedda F. Saremi, Colin Shew, Katherine Skerry, Dmitri 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 AF Frantz, 13 January 2021, Nature.
DOI: 10.1038 / s41586-020-03082-x

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