Dr KARL SHUKER

Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. Author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), and more recently Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is already considered to be his magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016), his many fans have been badgering him to join the blogosphere for years. The CFZ Blog Network is proud to have finally persuaded him to do so.

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Wednesday, 28 December 2016

DUPLICATING THE DIRE WOLF AS A DOMESTIC DOG?


Life-sized dire wolf statue at Dinosaur Valley, Wookey Hole, in Somerset, England (© Dr Karl Shuker)

Larger than today’s grey wolf Canis lupus, the formidable North American dire wolf C. dirus is famous for the numerous specimens discovered in California’s La Brea Tar Pits, but it had become extinct around 10,000 years ago. However, there is a remarkable ongoing project dedicated to achieving a dramatic dire wolf resurrection...of sorts.

Woodward's eagle Amplibuteo woodwardi (a giant North American raptor from the late Pleistocene) vs the dire wolf (© Hodari Nundu aka Justin Case)

A fascinating breeding program that has been attracting plenty of media attention lately is the Dire Wolf Project (click here to visit its official website), launched by the National American Alsatian Breeder’s Association, because it aims to recreate within a domestic breed of companion dog the basic dire wolf body, size, and bone structure. In short, not a true, genetically-restored dire wolf, but rather a domestic dog that mirrors the dire wolf’s phenotype (external morphology) as closely as possible.

Alongside dire wolf statue at Dinosaur Valley, Wookey Hole, in Somerset, England, on 29 August 2010 (© Dr Karl Shuker)

The American Alsatian, first created in 1987 from matings between original Alsatians (German Shepherd Dogs) and Alaskan Malamutes and initially referred to as the North American Shepalute, is itself the first product of this selective breeding project. However, the project’s continuing long-term plan is to refine its morphology still further, ever increasing its outward similarity to the genuine dire wolf, having subsequently introduced Anatolian Shepherd Dogs, English Mastiffs, and the Great Pyrenees into the breeding mix, because each of these possesses certain morphological attributes recalling those of the dire wolf.

Artistic representation of a dire wolf (© Hodari Nundu aka Justin Case)

Conversely, no dogs with any recent bona fide lupine ancestry have been used, because the goal is to restore or reconstitute the dire wolf in phenotype only – breeding back the large, round bones, the massive feet, and the broad head found in the skeletal structure of dire wolves studied by American palaeontologists – and not this wild prehistoric species’ behaviour or exact genetic composition. Nevertheless, a domestic dog duplicating the outward morphology of a bona fide dire wolf will still be a very impressive creature, to say the least. Of course, there can be no certainty that certain phenotypic aspects, such as fur colouration, density, and texture, will be comparable to those of the dire wolf, because as far as I am aware there are no preserved dire wolf specimens in toto (as there are with woolly mammoths, conversely), only their skeletal components. Even so, it will be most interesting to monitor the progress of such a novel project - watch this space!

My mother Mary Shuker alongside a very realistic replica of a dire wolf, at Dinosaur Valley, Wookey Hole, in Somerset, England, on 29 August 2010 (© Dr Karl Shuker)




5 comments:

  1. They want to recreate the morphology of a wolf (with slight differences) but don't want to use any handy wolf genes to do it... I can't help but think there's a bit of a disconnect here.

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  2. I feel the same as Warren. Their purpose is to constantly mate and birth dogs -- bringing sentient animals into existence -- just to achieve a particular appearance they desire to gawk at? (I'm sure they're completely altruistic and have no intention of eventually selling puppies.) Perhaps if they rescued a shelter dog on death row for every dog they produced I'd feel more generously about this effort.

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  3. I agree with the two comments here. And all very well doing it for appearance sake, what about temperament? Another dangerous dog breed in the making?
    Let sleeping dogs lie, and let extinct dogs stay extinct!

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  4. I have visited the George Paige Museum at the LA Brea tar pits many times. There is almost an entire wall of dire wolf skulls on display. The reasons this animal went extinct are unconvincing. It was a prolific breeder. Game animals even in post Ice Age southern California were plentiful. Humans were around but in small numbers. Something not yet understood caused the extinction of the mega-fauna.

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