Dire Wolves: The Last of an Ancient
New World Canid Lineage

Dire wolves are one of the most common and widespread large carnivores in Pleistocene America, yet relatively little is known about their evolution or extinction. To reconstruct the evolutionary history of dire wolves, researchers led by Dr. Angela Perri sequenced five genomes from sub-fossil remains dating from 13,000 to more than 50,000 years ago. New results indicate that although they were similar morphologically to the extant grey wolf, dire wolves were a highly divergent lineage that split from living canids around 5.7 million years ago. In contrast to numerous examples of hybridization across Canidae, there is no evidence for gene flow between dire wolves and either North American grey wolves or coyotes. This suggests that dire wolves evolved in isolation from the Pleistocene ancestors of these species.

On February 25, 2021, the Wolf Conservation Center hosted Dr. Perri for a webinar about the evolution of dire wolves and their potential New World origins, in contrast to the evolution of gray wolf ancestors in Eurasia.

*Note: Wolf in cover photo is not a dire wolf - he is an Arctic gray wolf.


Angela Perri is an environmental archaeologist who received her BA in Anthropology at Portland State University (Oregon) and her PhD in Archaeology from Durham University (UK). She was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Human Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Germany) and a Marie Curie Research Fellow in the Department of Archaeology at Durham University (UK). She is now a Lecturer in Archaeology at Newcastle University (UK). Her primary interests are in zooarchaeology, paleoecology, and paleoenvironments. Her research focuses on the nature of human environmental interactions by analyzing early relationships between humans, animals, climate, and landscapes. Most of her work has looked at prehistoric wolves, dogs, and domestication.

Angela Perri Wolf Excavation Credit