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Analysis of ancient DNA reveals details about the dire wolf, inspiration for 'Game of Thrones' creature

January 14, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 46.1%. 1 min read.

An extinct species of wolf, which served as inspiration for a mythical creature in the television show "Game of Thrones," had little in common with the gray wolves that roam North America today, new research has found.

(CNN)An extinct species of wolf, which served as inspiration for a mythical creature in the popular television show "Game of Thrones," had little in common with the gray wolves that roam North America today, new research has found.

Known as Canis dirus, meaning "fearsome dog," it had been thought that dire wolves were simply a beefier version of the gray wolf.

"The going narrative has been that gray and dire wolves were very closely related, like sister or cousin lineages, or perhaps the same animal," lead study author Angela Perri, an archaeologist at Durham University in the United Kingdom, told CNN via email.

Analysis showed that unlike many doglike species that seemingly migrated between North America and Eurasia over time, dire wolves evolved solely in North America for millions of years.

The animals' stark divergence from gray wolves, researchers believe, places them in an entirely different genus.

Dire wolves overlapped with coyotes and gray wolves in North America for some 10,000 years before their extinction -- but still, there is no evidence that they interbred with these species.

Unlike real dire wolves, the mythical "direwolves" depicted in "Game of Thrones" were shown to be the size of small horses and associated with the coldest environments in Westeros.

"On average dire wolves are roughly 20% larger than the average gray wolf today.

"Much different from the huge, furry gray animals depicted in frozen environments of Game of Thrones," she added.

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