It almost seems like the confirmation of the legend prowdly handed down by Romans since ancient times: that of the she-wolf who founded Rome. This time, however, it is not a matter of myths and legends, but rather a sensational archaeological discovery. In the Italian capital it has in fact been found the fossil of the first European wolf. The discovery, which took place in Ponte Galeria (near the area of Via Portuense) at the hands of a team of paleontologists and geologists from the Department of Earth Sciences of the University La Sapienza and the Department of Earth Sciences “Ardito Desio” in Milan, uncovered the remains of a large fossil canid skull dating back to 400,000 years ago.
It was thanks to the 3D reconstruction that it was possible to identify the fossil as “the oldest adult wolf (Canis lupus) in Europe“, datable to the Middle Pleistocene age. Dawid Iurino, the first author of the study, explained how the research was conducted: “The fossil fragments were scanned through CT scan and then digitally joined to recreate the original structure of the skull, which was then analyzed, measured and compared with other scans of modern canids such as the jackal, or the Apennine wolf, currently inhabiting the Italian peninsula“. In order to get to the conclusion about the dating of the fossil, the research team analyzed the volcanic sediment that covered the canid skull.
What emerged from the study, the results of which were published on the magazine Scientific Reports, thus highlighted new spread dynamics of the wolf in Europe. “Until this research happened – commented the study coordinator Raffaele Sardella – the oldest fossil remains of a wolf were those dated to around 300,000 years ago found in France (Lunel-Viel) and in Italy, near the Polledrara di Cecanibbio deposit on Aurelia, but there is no formal description of the find“. Now, in light of this new discovery, it is the Ponte Galeria wolf to hold the title of “oldest species found in Europe so far“.
According to recent analyzes, the dispersion of the wolf would have occurred in correspondence with the “Mid-Brunhes Event”, which is a phase of the Pleistocene characterized by an increase in amplitude of glacial/ interglacial cycles, then become longer and more intense. Such climate change had an enormous impact on terrestrial ecosystems, basically favoring the spread of new species in the European continent, including that of the wolf.