Fossil Spotlight

Fossil Spotlight: The Dire Wolf

Image by Bill Abbott. Taken at The La Brea Tar Pits and Museum

Who: The Dire Wolf, Canis dirus
Lagerstätte: La Brea Tar Pits
What: With over 3,600 individuals found, the Dire Wolf is the most common mammal at La Brea Tar Pits. It was the dominant predator at this ecosystem hunting the likes of ground sloths, American camels and horses, and ancient bison. It was larger than modern timber wolves and its massive jaws and teeth point to an adept scavenger, able to crush bones with their powerful bite. There are quite a few specimens that experience tooth breakage from these bone-biting behaviors. Their extinction may have stemmed from a loss of large and slow prey. Their stout build favored power over speed and as such couldn’t keep up with the surviving faster prey.

The image seen here is from The La Brea Tar Pits and Museum. 400 skulls of Dire Wolves are on display!

Coltrain, Joan Brenner, et al. “Rancho La Brea stable isotope biogeochemistry and its implications for the palaeoecology of late Pleistocene, coastal southern California.” Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 205.3-4 (2004): 199-219.