Full Details for Lot 324

     

Sale NH1305 Lot 324

AN EXTREMELY RARE GIANT DIRE WOLF SKULL FROM THE RANCHO LA BREA FORMATION
Formerly of the George Lee Collection
Canis dirus Pleistocene - 60,000 - 80,000 years old
Rancho La Brea Formation, Kern County, California

Tar seeps that formed natural traps occurred throughout the southwestern part of California in the late Pleistocene, not just at the world-famous La Brea Tar Pits site on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. The traps would often look like benign ponds of water to the thirsty animals of these prehistoric California savannahs because water floats on top of tar. These traps would mire a prey animal such as a Mastodon, Mammoth, Horse or Bison in the sticky tar and would act like quicksand to slowly draw the captured animals down into the tar pool and certain death. The trapped animals would struggle mightily to free themselves and, in the process, their cries and noises of their struggle would attract predators hungry for an easy meal. The giant "Dire" wolf was one of these predators and would opportunistically attack the immobilized victims of the tar in packs. The wolves would themselves become mired in the tar in large numbers because of their pack hunting methods. This massive skull represents a very large individual whose absolute size reaches the upper limits for this species. Measuring 12 inches in length by 7 inches wide across the zygomatic arches by 5 1/4 inches high. It is an excellent quality example with outstanding natural coloration. The lowers and uppers are from the same individual and no compositing has taken place which is in itself extremely rare because nearly all Canis dirus specimens from Rancho La Brea exhibited in museums are composites, however, approximately 30% of the bone surface area was missing primarily in the braincase and zygomatic arches and has been expertly, professionally restored. Although 3,600 skulls have been unearthed at Rancho La Brea, the commercial unavailability of fossil dire wolf skulls from this locality makes this particular specimen a highly prized collectable. No dire wolf skull of this size or caliber exists in a private collection. George Lee the world-famous fossil collector of Costa Mesa, California collected this specimen in the early 1970's. Today there is very limited access to collect in the California tar seeps, therefore a skull of this caliber is virtually irreplaceable. The dire wolf, Canis dirus, is now extinct, but during the last Ice Age, it ranged throughout North America. The skull of the dire wolf is the largest known for any canid, past or present. Dire wolf teeth are much larger and more massive in comparison to those of any living canid, including the gray wolf.
Estimate $60,000-80,000

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