They discover a new extinct species of small wolf in Orce

The Venta Micena field, located in the municipality of Orce (Baza basin, Granada), dating back to 1.6 million years old, preserves one of the best paleontological records of fauna of large quaternary mammals in Europe and the world. Discovered for science 45 years ago by a team of researchers from the Sabadell Institute of Paleontology, led by Josep Gibert.

In this place are the evidences of oldest human presence in Western Europe, located in the Barranco León and Fuente Nueva 3 deposits, dated 1.4 and 1.3 million years old. The remains consist of a fossil human tooth, abundant carved stones and marks left by its use on the bones of the animals that these remote ancestors of ours fed on.

In this context, Venta Micena, Orce and the entire Baza basin continue to provide new findings. Now a team of paleontologists lead by Welcome Martínez-Navarro, ICREA researcher at the Institut Català de Paleoecologia Humana i Evolució Social (IPHES-CERCA) and associate professor at the Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV), have described a new species of small size wolf, between 15 and 20 kg, dated at 1.6 million years.

Its name is ‘Canis orcensis’, in homage to the town of Orce, which almost half a century after the beginning of paleontological investigations, had never been dedicated the name of a species

His name is Canis orcensis, in homage to the town of Orce, which almost half a century after the beginning of paleontological investigations, had never been dedicated the name of a species. The discovery has been made known in an article published in the journal Comptes Rendus Palevol.

This research team has reinterpreted all the fossil remains of the site corresponding to the genus Canis, verifying that their anatomical and metric data they differ from the classical records of the species Canis etruscus, described in 1877 in Italy. Likewise, these remains are more closely related to those of the later species Canis mosbachensis, discovered in 1925 at the Mosbach site in Germany, and present in Barranco León and Fuente Nueva 3, the latter two in Orce.

“Now, the new species identified in Venta Micena is different, as it is characterized by a dentition with a tendency to hypercarnivory, which indicates that I ate more meat of vertebrates than other canids of the lower Pleistocene of similar size, whose dietary habits were more omnivorous, with greater consumption of vegetables, ”says Martínez-Navarro.

Fossil remains of the wolf’s jaw. / IPHES

This conclusion, based on the comparative study of its craniodental morphology, “is also supported by geochemical evidence, such as the abundance of stable nitrogen isotopes in the fossils, which indicate quite carnivorous habits for the little wolf ”, says the paleontologist.

It is probably the richest paleontological site of the Quaternary in the world


Venta Micena is a paleontological site with unique dimensions. It is a fertile horizontal level one meter thick, which can be followed on the surface for 2.5 km. It has been calculated that it has more than 1 km2 with fossils, that is, more than a million m2 with paleontological remains, with an average record of more than 60 fossils per m2.

“It is probably the richest paleontological site in the Quaternary in the world. For this reason, it has become one of the most studied localities on the continent ”, adds the scientist.

Jaw and dentition of the animal

Your record of large mammals fossils is very diverse, with an abundance of mammoths, rhinos, horses, hippos, large and small deer, two species of buffalo and four species of smaller bovidae, along with a very spectacular variety of carnivores. These include two species of saber-toothed tigers, a panther and a lynx, among the felids, a giant hyena, the famous Pachycrocuta brevirostris, a bear, a badger and three species of canids, including a fox, a lycaon. and the little wolf Canis orcensis. To this must be added two species of rabbits, five of rodents, some insectivores (shrews) and other vertebrates, among them some scarce remains of aquatic birds.

“Thanks to this extraordinary amount of fossils, for almost half a century there have been countless studies of a taxonomic, taphonomic, biogeochemical, ecological nature, etc., some of them of great international scientific projection ”, remarks the paleontologist from IPHES-CERCA and URV.

Fountain: SINC

Rights: Creative Commons.

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