Meeting Abstract

66-5  Friday, Jan. 6 14:30 - 14:45  Identity of Ice Age Idaho wolves MEACHEN, JA*; BITTERMAN, KM; THOMPSON, ME; BRANNICK, AL; Des Moines University; Des Moines University; Idaho Museum of Natural History; University of Washington

Beringian wolves are an extinct group of Pleistocene-aged wolves from Alaska that specialized in hunting ice age megafauna. They were morphologically and genetically distinct from grey wolf (Canis lupus) and morphologically distinct from dire wolf (Canis dirus). The recent discovery of Beringian wolves at the late Pleistocene fossil site of Natural Trap Cave (NTC) in northern Wyoming marks the first record of this type of wolf in the contiguous U.S. Their migration followed an ice-free corridor from Alaska to Wyoming before the last glacial maximum, begging the question: Did Beringian wolves make it elsewhere in the contiguous U.S.? We collected 2D geometric morphometric data from photos of wolf mandibles from Alaska and WY-NTC (Beringian wolves), Rancho La Brea (RLB) in southern California (dire wolves), Idaho (purported dire wolves), and extant grey wolves from northwestern North America. We analyzed these images using 16 landmarks in tpsDig2. PCA and CVA analyses were run in PCAgen and CVAgen programs, and ANOVA was run on the PC scores to compare groups. Results show that the Idaho wolves are indistinguishable from NTC Beringian wolves and RLB dire wolves on PC1 and that they group with RLB dire wolves on PC2. In size, Idaho wolves group solidly with NTC Beringian wolves, and are significantly smaller than dire wolves. These findings suggest that the Idaho wolves are not the same species as is found at Rancho La Brea and that there was some hybridization between dire wolves and Beringian wolves in southern Idaho. Hybridization between modern canids is a common occurrence and our results would suggest that canid hybridization also occurred in the Pleistocene. The next step is to examine ancient DNA to assess whether the morphology concurs with the genetics of these ancient wolves.