Answer Monday

Last week on Fossil Friday, I presented you with a biting challenge. Teeth from the Rancho La Brea tar pits that are so common, most people probably could identify this specimen without even looking. What was it? Teeth from a Canis dirus AKA a dire wolf.

From the Prehistoric Wildlife site:

“Dire wolves are extremely well known and are the single most common species of animal found at the world famous Rancho La Brea Tar Pits. They are also known from numerous other locations across the USA, and are thought to have evolved from Canis armbrusteri, more commonly known as Armbruster's wolf. Fossils of C. armbrusteri show the transitional morphing into the dire wolf form.
      For a time of about one-hundred thousand years, the ranges of the dire and gray wolf (Canis lupus) overlapped, and the two coexisted together. The dire wolf however was larger and more powerfully built than the gray, and it’s thought that the two wolves focused upon different prey groups, thus avoiding direct competition with one another. Because the gray wolf was smaller and more lightly built, it probably went for swifter and lighter prey items such as elk. Dire wolves however had a much more robust skeleton which indicates the presence of much more powerful and larger muscles. The skull is also proportionately wider indicating stronger bite muscles. These adaptations in a predator are the tell-tale signs of a hunter that primarily concerned itself with larger and more powerful prey.”

Thanks to those who played this week. Stay tuned for more fossil fun this Friday!

Minda Berbeco
Short Bio

Minda Berbeco is the former Programs and Policy Director at NCSE.

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