“New Research Shows How Wolves Survived Pleistocene Extinction”

In “New research shows how wolves survived Pleistocene extinction” (The University of Ottawa’s Fulcrum, 6Feb2022), Emma Williams wrote:

Based on Landry’s research she found that “they were eating the same types of material in the Pleistocene as they do now or recently (1960). So a lot of the scratches (those linear features) would show us that they were mostly consuming fleshy organs, all of those softer tissues.”

She continued, “there was, you know, some pitting because they can’t perfectly pull the flesh just off the animal, they’re gonna have some bone in there. But that showed us that they were probably able to be active hunters and catch and defend their own prey even from all these other carnivores.”

This finding disrupts any preconceived notions that Pleistocene wolves were located at the bottom of the carnivore levels. Their feeding behaviours were once thought to mainly consist of scavenging, when in reality, they were most likely actively competing against other carnivores for food resources. 

Most interestingly, “the isotopes basically showed us that in the past, Yukon wolves were really feeding mostly on horses, more than 50 per cent. They probably ate some caribou, some doll, sheep, probably scavenged mammoths. However, horses went extinct in North America during the Pleistocene extinction.”

What stood out to researchers was that wolves were able to switch their diets from primarily horses in the Pleistocene to what we observe today — larger hoofed mammals (caribou, moose). This flexibility is what Landry predicts may have aided grey wolves to survive the Pleistocene extinction event.

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