Face-to-face with an Ice Age wolf
Fido’s 40,000-year-old ancestor
The well-preserved head of a giant wolf that died up to 40,000 years ago has been unearthed from the melting permafrost in eastern Siberia—a discovery that could shine a light on the evolutionary history of wolves and domestic dogs. Found by locals looking for mammoth ivory on the banks of a river, the adult wolf head has a fully intact set of teeth and coat of fur. “It looks like it died yesterday,” Julie Meachen, a paleontologist at Des Moines University who isn’t involved in the research, toldGizmodo.com. “We’ve never seen an Ice Age wolf in the flesh before, and this is a huge specimen.” The wolf was between 2 and 4 years old when it died, and at 15 inches, its head is longer than those of modern wolves, whose heads typically measure 9 to 11 inches. Scientists will now examine the specimen’s DNA and build a digital model of its skull and brain. Albert Protopopov, a researcher at the Republic of Sakha Academy of Sciences in Siberia, says that as the planet warms, more ancient remains will emerge from the region’s melting permafrost. Other finds in Siberia in the past year include a well-preserved cave lion cub and a 42,000-year-old foal that still contained liquid blood and urine.