LAS VEGAS, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- Fossil remains from an extinct wolf species found near Las Vegas are the first evidence the ice age mammal once lived in Nevada, researchers say.
A foot bone uncovered late last year by a University of Nevada, Las Vegas, geologist has now been confirmed as that of a dire wolf, a university release reported Monday.
The dire wolf, a larger relative of the gray wolf, lived in much of North and South America for more than a million years, researchers said.
"Dire wolves are known to have lived in almost all of North America south of Canada, but their historical presence in Nevada has been absent until now," said geology Professor Josh Bonde, who was a UNLV doctoral student when he discovered the bone.
Scientists estimate the fossil to be 10,000 to 15,000 years old; dire wolves are believed to have gone extinct about 10,000 years ago during the Late Pleistocene period.
The announcement comes on the heels of a recent discovery in the same area northwest of Las Vegas of fossil remains of a saber-tooth cat by researchers from the San Bernardino County Museum in California.
The region was a spring-fed, swampy area during parts of the Late Pleistocene, an ideal spot for plant-eating animals and their carnivorous predators, researchers said.
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