Naturalish over at Medium recently took a look at the various creatures of Westeros and discovered: There are too many top predators in too small an undifferentiated space!
While the article isn’t explicitly saying that there would be Westerosi bears and lions and wolves fighting each other all the time everywhere, it sure seems apt that a continent with a history like Westeros would naturally encourage its animals to tear at each other’s throats and invade each other’s lands.
Naturalish’s article is actually a really fun walk through the basics of animal speciation, focusing on the 6 apex predators present on Westeros and demonstrating how migration, evolution, and invasion would have long resulted in a winnowing of their populations, as lions won out over bears, or bears won out over wolves, or wolves won out over shadowcats, yes, shadowcats.
If lions were invasive, or if bears were an evolutionary offshoot that rejoined the mainland population, naturalists in Westeros would expect to see these overlapping species compete until one dies out. The only reason this doesn’t happen in the real world is that there are significant disturbances — rivers, mountains, deserts — that keep these species far-enough apart.
Variation happens all the time in the animal kingdom, but in the case of Westeros, species are squished too closely together for them to exist in a stable equilibrium. All magic and creative licensing aside, there’s frankly just too many cooks in the kitchen.
The article isn’t meant to be the last word on apex predators in Westeros, just another fun detail of George R. R. Martin’s world to theorize and play with. Looking at Westeros through such a naturalist lens also results in a happy worldbuilding coincidence: the creation of The Wall actually makes an evolutionary split between direwolves and wolves completely logical.
And in the end, the article notes, a surplus of apex predators on Westeros could actually be possible, just unlikely, especially given the resource scarcity brought about by years-long winters.
Of course, then you add dragons into the mix and things get really confusing…