Plenty of Game of Thrones fans have dreamed of having their own direwolves as pets just like the Starks – as it turns out, if they lived thousands of years ago, they may well have done.
Just like many things in the series are inspired by real life, the near-mythical icons of the Stark family are inspired by real creatures that walked the earth millennia ago.
In fact, new research published this week in the journal Nature has revealed more about the extinct creatures than ever before.
The direwolves lived until around 13,000 years ago. They became extinct around the end of the last ice age, and before then could be found roaming the Americas and eastern Asia.
It was previously thought that the animals were a ‘beefed-up version’ of the common grey wolf, around twice the size of a German shepherd.
However, new first DNA research of fossilised dire wolf remains show that the beasts were more unalike common wolves that survive today than first thought.
According to Kieren Mitchell, co-lead author from the University of Adelaide’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA, said the extinct direwolves and common wolves are actually ‘more like distant cousins, like humans and chimpanzees’.
‘While ancient humans and Neanderthals appear to have interbred, as do modern grey wolves and coyotes, the genetic data suggests that dire wolves did not interbreed with any living canine species, Dr Mitchell said [via the SMH).
So, while they might have not protected noble households or tackled the forces of evil like they do in Game of Thrones, dire wolves were very real creatures indeed.
All we need to find now is a set of dragon remains and Game of Thrones fans will be happy.
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Credit: Original article published here.