“Our results are surprising as the unique attributes of Alaskan Pleistocene wolves had not been previously recognized and show that wolves suffered an extinction at the end of the Pleistocene,” said Blaire Van Valkenburgh of the University of California, Los Angeles. “If not for their persistence in the Old World, we might not have wolves in North America today. Regardless, the living gray wolf differs dramatically from that which roamed Alaska just 12,000 years ago.”
The gray wolf is one of the few large predators that survived the mass extinction of the late Pleistocene. Nevertheless, wolves disappeared from northern North America at that time.
To further explore the identity of Alaska’s ancient wolves in the new study, the researchers collected skeletal remains of the animals from Pleistocene permafrost deposits of eastern Beringia and examined their chemical composition and genetic makeup.
Remarkably, they discovered that the late-Pleistocene wolves were distinct from existing wolves, both genetically and in terms of their physical characteristics. None of the ancient wolves were a genetic match for any modern wolves, they report. Moreover, the animals’ skull shape and tooth wear, as well as a chemical analysis of their bones, all suggest that eastern Beringian wolves were specialized hunters and scavengers of extinct megafauna.
“The ancient wolves had relatively more massive teeth and broader skulls with shorter snouts, enhancing their ability to produce strong bites,” Van Valkenburgh said. “In addition, the studies of their tooth wear and fracture rate showed high levels of both, consistent with regular and frequent bone-cracking and -crunching behavior.”
Those characteristics probably came in handy in ancient Alaska, where the wolves faced stiff competition for food from some very formidable competitors, she added, including lions, short-faced bears, and saber-tooth cats. During periods of intense competition among predators, modern-day wolves will also consume carcasses more fully, ingesting more bone and eating faster, which increases the risk of tooth fracture.
The long-ago demise of this specialized wolf form may portend things to come for specialized groups of existing predators, Van Valkenburgh said. For example, a unique type of nomadic North American gray wolf was recently discovered. Their packs migrate across the North American tundra along with caribou and keep their numbers in check. In contrast, all other wolves are territorial and non-migratory. “Global warming threatens to eliminate the tundra and it is likely that this will mean the extinction of this important predator,” she said.
Erin Doonan | EurekAlert!
Minimized water consumption in CSP plants - EU project MinWaterCSP is making good progress
05.12.2017 | Steinbeis-Europa-Zentrum
Jena Experiment: Loss of species destroys ecosystems
28.11.2017 | Technische Universität München
Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.
To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...
The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.
Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...
With innovative experiments, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrums Geesthacht and the Technical University Hamburg unravel why tiny metallic structures are extremely strong
Light-weight and simultaneously strong – porous metallic nanomaterials promise interesting applications as, for instance, for future aeroplanes with enhanced...
An interdisciplinary group of researchers interfaced individual bacteria with a computer to build a hybrid bio-digital circuit - Study published in Nature Communications
Scientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) have managed to control the behavior of individual bacteria by connecting them to a...
Physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (run jointly by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics) have developed an attosecond electron microscope that allows them to visualize the dispersion of light in time and space, and observe the motions of electrons in atoms.
The most basic of all physical interactions in nature is that between light and matter. This interaction takes place in attosecond times (i.e. billionths of a...
11.12.2017 | Event News
08.12.2017 | Event News
07.12.2017 | Event News
11.12.2017 | Information Technology
11.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
11.12.2017 | Event News