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The Dire Wolf is a part of the Extinct themed collection.
The Dire Wolf (Canis dirus) is an extinct carnivorous mammal of the genus Canis related to the smaller extant Gray Wolf. It was most common in North America and South America from the Irvingtonian stage to the Rancholabrean stage of the Pleistocene epoch, living 1.80 Ma—10,000 years ago, persisting for approximately 1.79 million years.
A display of some of the thousands of Dire Wolf skulls found in La Brea tar pits
The type specimen of the dire wolf was found in Evansville, Indiana in the summer of 1854, when the Ohio River was quite low. The specimen, a fossilized jawbone, was obtained by Joseph Granville Norwood from an Evansville collector named Francis A. Linck. Norwood, who at that time was the first state geologist of Illinois, sent the specimen to Joseph Leidy at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. Leidy determined that the specimen represented an extinct species of wolf and published a note to that effect in November 1854. In a publication dated 1858, Leidy assigned the name Canis dirus.
Norwood's letters to Leidy, as well as the type specimen itself, are preserved at the Academy of Natural Sciences although one of the letters indicates that the specimen was to be returned to Linck's family, as Linck himself died in August 1854.
The dire wolf is best known for its unusually high representation in La Brea Tar Pits in California. Fossils from more than 3,600 dire wolves have been recovered from the tar pits, more than any other mammal species. This large number suggests that the Dire Wolf, like modern wolves and dogs, probably hunted in packs. It also gives some insight into the pressures placed on the species near the end of its existence.