LAS VEGAS (AP) — Researchers studying the fossil-rich Upper Las Vegas Wash found the first evidence that an extinct, ice age wolf species once lived in Nevada, officials from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas announced this week.
UNLV geologist Josh Bonde uncovered a foot bone late last year near the proposed Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument, and scientists in Los Angeles recently confirmed it belonged to the dire wolf.
"The Tule Springs area has turned up many species, but it's exciting to fill in another part of the map for this animal and reveal a bit more about the ice age ecosystem in Southern Nevada," Bonde said.
The dire wolf, a larger relative of the gray wolf, roamed much of North and South America for more than a million years, according to scientists. They believe competition from other wolf species and a possible lack of food led to the dire wolf's extinction about 10,000 years ago.
The bone was identified by the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History's Xiaoming Wang, an expert on extinct species of the dog family. It's estimated to be between 10,000 and 15,000 years old.