New York (dpa) - The remains of actual specimens of the "Game of Thrones" wolf have given evidence of a distant relationship to animals living today.
Scientists from Germany, among others, have examined the genetic makeup of the wolf, which died out 13,000 years ago.
Canis dirus - who became famous as the «direwolf» and heraldic animal in the «Game of Thrones» series - is so genetically different from today's wolves and coyotes that he apparently could not reproduce with them.
This is the result of an extensive study by dozens of researchers in nine countries, in which the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich was also involved.
The results were presented in the science magazine “Nature”.
Because of the very similar physical characteristics between Canis dirus and animals living today, it was previously assumed that they were very closely related to one another.
Although their range in North America overlapped for at least 10,000 years, there were still no indications of crossings.
"Our genetic results instead show that Canis dirus and wolves living today are very distant cousins," says co-author Kieren Mitchell of the University of Adelaide.
Durham University compared the relationship with humans and chimpanzees.
The lineage of the "Game of Thrones" wolf split off around six million years ago.
According to the researchers' assumption, the subsequent “reproductive isolation” ultimately led to Canis dirus being genetically poorly equipped for the new environmental conditions and becoming extinct at the end of the Ice Age.
The researchers obtained their findings by analyzing the remains of wolves, some of which are more than 50,000 years old, from which genetic material was extracted and compared.
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 210113-99-11466 / 3