Dire wolf skull gets CT scan at Siouxland hospital - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Dire wolf skull gets CT scan at Siouxland hospital

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"Compared to a modern day gray wolf, they're close in size. But very robust, very heavy duty built. They're chasing down big Ice Age animals," said Archaeologist Jason Titcomb. "Compared to a modern day gray wolf, they're close in size. But very robust, very heavy duty built. They're chasing down big Ice Age animals," said Archaeologist Jason Titcomb.

Friday night, it arrived in a cardboard box, Cherokee Regional Medical Center's next patient. There, not to treat a dire condition, but because it's part of a dire wolf. A piece of skull to be precise.

What's a dire wolf? Ask its handler from the Sanford Museum.

"Compared to a modern day gray wolf, they're close in size. But very robust, very heavy duty built. They're chasing down big Ice Age animals," said Archaeologist Jason Titcomb. 

Yes, he said Ice Age, which would make the rare Iowa find very, very old.

"I think it's well over 10,000 years. Could be even older yet," said Titcomb.

Age is what brought the specimen to the hospital. Researchers wanted to CT the skull before they slice off a small sample for carbon dating.

"It's going to do very minimal damage, but by doing the CT scan, we've got an overall picture and that picture we'll have forever. Even if something tragic would happen, we still have that data," said Titcomb.

A CT works by having detectors scan a specimen and then turn it into cross sectional images. That's what happened to the skull. It was digitally sliced, like a loaf of bread.

"It'll give you a 3D picture. Then you can look at whichever slice you want to. Look at it face up to see if there's peanut and jelly on your slice, or whatever you got going on," said CRMC Radiology Manager Jeanna Bergendahl.

Knowledge hungry scientists won't be using the data to search for a sandwich spread, though.

"We'll get to look at things like brain morphology and those sorts of things, that no one has had the chance to do yet," said Titcomb.

That's enough to make them howl with excitement.

"This is a chance of a lifetime," said Titcomb.

The Sanford Museum's dire wolf specimen is the only one known to be discovered in Iowa. Officials say carbon dating could take a few months.

Meanwhile, you can check the skull out at the museum's Ice Age display.

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