A MORPHOLOGICAL ANALYSIS OF WOLF-LIKE CANIDS, AND A LOOK INTO AUGUSTANA'S DIRE WOLVES FROM THE LA BREA TAR PITS, LOS ANGELES, COUNTY, CA
Through this research, I aim to provide further support to the Perri et al. (2021) interpretations by determining whether morphological data supports the genetic link between dire wolves and African jackals. To do this, I utilized landmark analysis, high-resolution 2D imagery, and 3D photogrammetry to quantify the cranium and mandible morphologies of well-preserved skull specimens belonging to each of these four canid groups (dire wolves, gray wolves, coyotes, and African jackals). Specimens used were from Museum of the North, University of Alaska, Fairbanks; Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, WY; Yale Peabody Museum, New Haven, CT; Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology, Claremont, CA; Field Museum, Chicago, IL; Augustana College, Rock Island, IL; and from my own personal IL collection. Comparisons of measurements using bivariate and multivariate analytical methods are ongoing but seem to point to complex relationships among these canid groups that may be the result of: phylogeny, ontogeny, or evolutionary change (among fossil and recent taxa belonging to the same species). In early multivariate analyses using ordination, preliminary results show dissimilarity between dire wolf morphology and two canids: coyotes and gray wolves. Further analyses should aid in the understanding of whether relationships between dire wolf and the African jackals and between gray wolf and coyote are the result of genetic or convergent evolution.