A collection of dire wolf skulls

This image shows fewer than 400 of the 1600+ dire wolf skulls found in the La Brea Tar Pits — natural seepages of asphalt that trapped thousands upon thousands of animals over centuries. Like most of you, I was familiar with what the tar pits were. But, until I visited last week, I hadn't really had a grasp of just how many animal remains have been found there. Seriously, the place is lousy with bones. As in, chunks of partially excavated asphalt look more like jumbles of bone held together with some hardened goop.

For the record, dire wolves really did exist, and they really were larger than modern wolves — but not as much larger as you might imagine from reading Game Of Thrones. There's a lot of overlap in the Bell Curves here, with the average dire wolf probably having been about the same size as the larger specimens of modern grey wolves.

Meanwhile, there are people trying to breed a dog that fits the fantasy of pet dire wolves — really big, really wolfy, and yet somehow well-behaved. It is not, however, terribly like the real-life dire wolf, in looks or genetics.