With the success of the critically acclaimed Game of Thrones series Dire Wolves seem to have gotten their 15 minutes of fame. The wolves in this show, which features such things as dragons and nymphs, might be believed to be as farfetched as the other creates. In reality dire wolves are quite real albeit extinct.
Dire wolves, also known as Canis dirus or “fearsome dog”, lived as recent as 10,000 years ago which is actually fairly recent. This extinct species of giant wolf did in fact live during the same time period as humans giving a bit of truth to the lovable animals of HBO (we are still not sure about the dragons). The dire wolf lived in Northern America 125,000-9,500 years ago during the Late Pleistocrene and early Holocehe periods. These early hunters lived off megaherbivores such as horses, ground sloths and even bison. As pack hunters there were advantages to hunting these large herbivores. Some people speculate that while large, dire wolves were not as fast as the modern day grey wolf who is agile enough to catch small prey. Dire wolf fossils have been found with evidence of severe wounds likely sustained from other carnivores. Some of the wounds identified would lead to death if they were left alone leading researches to believe these pack animals cared for each other.
The first dire wolf fossil was found in 1854 in Evansville Indiana. Since then many more dire wolf fossils have been found including many from the La Brea Tar Pits of California, including the piece found here at Amazing Relics. Researchers believe climactic change wiped out this species fairly quickly in about 1,000 to 100 years as North America saw rapid warming and gradual melting. Dire Wolf fossils that researches believe to have lived during the end of their rein show signs of food stress like smaller size and broken teeth. While it seems these fan favorites were able to survive the long winter it was in fact the coming summer that led to the downfall of the Dire Wolf