From Ottawa, at a meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology
Many species of large mammals went extinct when the last ice age ended about 12,000 years ago. But Canis lupus, the gray wolf, survived that wrenching period unscathed—or so scientists thought. New genetic analyses of the remains of gray wolves found in Alaska indicate, however, that a distinct subspecies of C. lupus disappeared at that time, possibly because of its dietary habits.
Blaire Van Valkenburgh of the University of California, Los Angeles and her colleagues conducted a genetic study of living gray wolves and also samples of mitochondrial DNA recovered from wolf bones found in Alaskan permafrost. The remains of those 21 animals ranged in age from 12,600 years to at least 47,000 years.
The team's analyses revealed 15 combinations of genetic variations in the Alaskan wolves that didn't match any of those in 126 modern gray wolves. "This was surprising, so th