A rare skull of the extinct dire wolf is to cross the block at IM Chait in Beverly Hills.
The extraordinarily well preserved lot, discovered in a California tar pit, is valued at $50,000-60,000 ahead of the July 30 sale.
The dire wolf skull is 70% complete
The dire wolf roamed North America for around 120,000 years before going extinct at the end of the last ice age (around 12,000 years ago).
It looked much like a grey wolf, but with significantly larger teeth – which was very bad news for early humans in the Americas.
This specimen was uncovered in the famous Rancho La Brea pits in Hancock Park, Los Angeles.
Tar pits were an occupational hazard for the animals of prehistoric California.
As well as the risk of dying of asphyxiation or starvation, there were also a host of opportunist predators.
Ironically, this dire wolf likely came a cropper after attempting to attack another animal trapped in the pits.
It’s one of the most complete skulls ever recovered from the area, with both the upper and lower parts originating from the same animal.
Around 70% is original, with the remaining 30% having been reconstructed.
The auction house comments: “Although 3,600 skulls have been unearthed at Rancho La Brea, the commercial unavailability of fossil dire wolf skulls from this locality makes this particular specimen a highly prized collectable.
“No dire wolf skull of this size or caliber exists in a private collection…
“Today there is very limited access to collect in the California tar seeps, therefore a skull of this caliber is virtually irreplaceable.”
Please sign up to our free newsletter to receive exciting news about unique auctions.