Dire Wolf Jaw Classic Riker Box
Dire Wolf Jaw Classic Riker Box
The dire wolf was one of the most successful predators of the late Pleistocene epoch, rivaling that of the Smilodon. Ranging from Alaska to Bolivia, this muscular carnivore dominated the North American food chain 100,000 years ago with its powerful bite and pack tactics.
This specimen is a fragment of the dire wolf's iconic jaw, which is placed in one of our classic glass-topped riker display cases alongside an informational photo card.
📸 The Dire Wolf Jaw Specimen
A canine like no other
The dire wolf was one of the most successful predators of the late Pleistocene epoch. Ranging from Alaska to Bolivia, this muscular carnivore fed on a wide variety of large prey including bison, camels, horses, mastodons, mammoths, and even giant ground sloths.
This massive canine was truly a force to be reckoned with, weighing over 150 pounds and with a bite force stronger than any modern species. This adaptation made it perfect at taking down megafauna herbivores but also gave it an edge when fighting against its biggest competition: the saber-toothed cat, Smilodon.
The specimen is a fragment of a dire wolf jaw found in Florida on private land. During the Pleistocene, this region was a savannah ecosystem filled with numerous large mammals.
The specimen measures approximately 5mm and comes in an acrylic jar, which housed inside a glass-topped Riker display box measuring 4x3x1 (inches). A small information card accompanies the specimen and serves as the certificate of authenticity.
MORE ABOUT DIRE WOLF
"Let me tell you something about wolves, child. When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives." ~ George R.R. Martin, Song of Ice and Fire
📸 Dire wolves are the most common mammalian remains found in the Rancho La Brea Tar Pits, and hundreds of skulls from this site are on display in the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.
The Perfect Hunter
The first remains of the dire wolf were discovered on the banks of the Ohio River near Evansville, Indiana, and later identified as a new species (Canis dirus*) by Joseph P. Leidy. Leidy's early remarks to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia in 1854, describe an animal that is strikingly similar to the modern gray wolf:
"The fragment only differs from the corresponding part of the recent Canis lupus Europe and its American congeners, in being rather larger and in its having slight variations in several of the molar teeth."
Even though these two animals stood roughly the same height at the shoulder, the dire wolf's bones are far thicker, and the skull, including the jaws and teeth, is much larger. Modern estimates of body mass based on skeletal reconstruction suggest the average dire wolf outweighed its gray wolf cousin by 40% or more. The increased strength would be very useful in wearing down larger prey. It also suggests that dire wolves might have been more physical in their approach to hunting, using body weight as a major advantage.
*Now known as Aenocyon Dirus! See below!
📸 A jaw bone from the Dire Wolf
The dire wolf is thought to have been a pack hunter. This finding is based in part on analysis of remains found at Rancho La Brea Tar Pits where the dire wolf outnumbers other large mammals nearly ten to one. This also suggests that dire wolves hunted in much larger packs than the gray wolf, which would not be too surprising given the size difference between the dire wolf and its megafaunal prey.
The dire wolf was not alone as an apex predator, however. Significant competition came from another Pleistocene creatutre, the Smilodon. Also known as a saber-tooth cat, smilodon was a bulky felid with two massively elongated canine teeth. The rivalry between these two species is well documented in paleoart and even supported by their proximity at certain fossil sites.
Despite the dire wolf's size and numbers, it disappeared along with many other large species at the end of the Pleistocene epoch. Most scientists believe that rapid climate change played a major role in this large-scale extinction event, but it would be difficult to ignore the introduction of humans to the Americas as the two species often sought the same prey.
Although this animal was originally known as Canis dirus and considered a close relative of modern wolves and dogs, new research is changing our understanding of the creature. In 2021, a genome study of dire wolf showed the world evidence that they were a part of a seperate genus.
Previous studies of dire wolf evolution were based on their bone structure in comparison with modern wolves. With the use of DNA testing, it is becoming clear that this was a case of convergent evolution to fill a similar niche. Dire wolves actually split off from the Canis genus 5 million years ago.
Collecting viable genetic material from the tar pit fossils hasn't been easy, but scientists have managed to get about one fourth of the full genome — enough to show this animal was quite unique. The animal's current scentific classification is Aenocyon dirus. They were the last link in their evolutionary chain of an American canid.
FRONT OF THE SPECIMEN CARD
BACK OF THE SPECIMEN CARD
Leidy, Joseph. "Notice of Some Fossil Bones Discovered by Mr. Francis A. Lincke, in the Banks of the Ohio River, Indiana." Proceedings: Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 7 (1854): 199-201.
Leonard, Jennifer A., et al. "Megafaunal Extinctions and the Disappearance of a Specialized Wolf Ecomorph." Current Biology 17.13 (2007): 1146-1150.
Merriam, John Campbell. The Fauna of Rancho La Brea. Vol. 1. No. 2. The University Press, 1911.
VanValkenburgh, Blaire, and Fritz Hertel. "Tough Times at La Brea: Tooth Breakage in Large Carnivores of the Late Pleistocene." Science 261.5120 (1993): 456-459.
Wroe, Stephen, Colin McHenry, and Jeffrey Thomason. "Bite Club: Comparative Bite Force in Big Biting Mammals and the Prediction of Predatory Behaviour in Fossil Taxa." Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 272.1563 (2005): 619-625.
Perri, A.R., Mitchell, K.J., Mouton, A.et al.Dire wolves were the last of an ancient New World canid lineage.Nature591, 87–91 (2021).