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The gray wolf is the second most specialized member of the genus Canisafter the Ethiopian wolfas demonstrated by its morphological adaptations to hunting large prey, its more gregarious nature,  and its highly advanced expressive behavior.
It is the only species of Canis to have a range encompassing both the Old and New Worlds and originated in Eurasia during the Pleistocenecolonizing North America on at least three separate occasions during the Rancholabrean.
It feeds primarily on large ungulatesthough it also eats smaller animals, livestock, carrion, and garbage. The global gray wolf population is estimated to beNon-rabid wolves have attacked and killed people, mainly children, but this is rare, as wolves are relatively few, live away from people, and have developed a fear of humans aolf hunters and shepherds.
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The Latin lupus is a Sabine loanword. The species Canis lupus was first recorded by Carl Linnaeus in his publication Systema Naturae in with the Latin classification translating into the English words “dog wolf”. The thirty-seven subspecies of Canis lupus are listed under the designated common name of “wolf” in Mammal Species of the World third edition that was published in The evolution of the wolf occurred over wolc geologic time scale of at least thousand years. The gray wolf Canis lupus is a highly adaptable species that is able to exist in a range of environments and which possesses a wide distribution across the Holarctic.
Studies of modern owlf wolves have identified distinct sub-populations that live in wolc proximity to each other. The hrey and paleontological records show gray wolf continuous presence for at least the lastyears. However, the geographic origin fa110 this radiation is not known. Inwhole genome sequencing was used to compare members of genus Canisalong cw110 the dhole Cuon alpinus and the African hunting dog Lycaon pictus.
There is evidence of gene flow between African golden wolvesgolden jackalsand gray wolves. One African golden wolf from the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula showed high admixture with the Middle Eastern gray wolves and dogs, highlighting the role of the land bridge between the African and Eurasian continents in canid evolution. There was evidence of gene flow between golden jackals and Middle Eastern wolves, less so with European and Asian wolves, and least with North American wolves. The study proposes that the golden jackal ancestry found in North American wolves may have occurred before the divergence of the Eurasian and North American gray wolves.
The study indicates that the common ancestor of the coyote and gray wolf has wplf admixed with a ghost hrey of an extinct unidentified canid. The canid is genetically close to the dhole and has evolved after the divergence of the African hunting dog from the other canid species. The basal position of the coyote compared to the wolf is proposed to be due to the coyote retaining more of the mitochondrial genome of this unknown canid. Ina genetic study found that the wolf population in Europe was divided along a north-south axis and formed five major clusters.
Three clusters were identified occupying southern and central Europe in Italy, the Dinaric- Balkansthe Carpathians.
Another two clusters were identified occupying aolf Europe and the Ukrainian steppe. The Italian wolf consisted of an isolated population with low genetic diversity.
Wolves from Finland, Latvia, Belarus, Poland and Russia formed the north-central Europe cluster, with wolves ffw110 the Carpathians cluster coming from a mixture of wolves from the north-central cluster and the Dinaric-Balkans cluster.
The wolves from the Carpathians were more similar to the wolves from the Pontic-Caspian Steppe than they were to wolves from north-central Europe.
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These clusters may have been the result of expansion from glacial refugiaan adaptation to local environments, and landscape fragmentation and the killing of wolves in some areas by humans. Intwo genetic studies of North American gray wolves found that they formed six ecotypes — genetically and ecologically distinct populations separated from other populations by their different type of habitat.
The studies found that precipitation and mean diurnal temperature range were the most influential variables. It was once thought that dogs and gray wolves did not voluntarily interbreed in the wild, though they can produce fertile wolf-dog offspring. The gray wolf does not readily interbreed with coyotes. The study supports the findings of previous studies that North American gray wolves and other wolf-like canids were the result of complex gray wolf and coyote mixing.
A polar wolf from Greenland and a coyote from Mexico represented the purest specimens. The coyotes from Alaska, California, Alabama, and Quebec show almost no wolf ancestry. This was then followed by development into local populations.
Individuals within each group showed consistent levels of coyote to wolf inheritance, indicating that this was the result of relatively ancient admixture. If a third canid had been involved in the admixture of the North American wolf-like canids then its genetic signature would have been found in coyotes and wolves, which it has not.
Additionally, coyote genetic markers have been found in some wild isolated gray wolf populations in the southern United States. Gray wolf Y-chromosomes have also been found in Texan coyote haplotypes. At six months of age, the hybrids were closely monitored and were shown to display both physical and behavioral characteristics from both species. Although hybridization between wolves and golden jackals has never been observed, evidence of such occurrences was discovered through mtDNA analysis on jackals in Bulgaria.
The gray wolf is the largest extant member of the Canidaeexcepting certain large breeds of domestic dog. Compared to its closest wild cousins the coyote and golden jackalthe gray wolf is larger and heavier, with a broader snout, shorter ears, a shorter torso and longer tail.
The gray wolf usually carries its head at the same level as the back, raising it only when alert. Generally, wolves have a high heart weight of 0. Tibetan gray wolves, which occupy territories up to 3, above sea levelhave evolved hearts that withstand the low oxygen levels. The gray wolf’s head is large and heavy, with a wide forehead, strong jaws and a long, blunt muzzle.
This force is sufficient to break open most bones. A similar trend was found with the carnassial tooth bite force, but with the extinct dire wolf and gray wolf both measuringthen followed by the African hunting dogthe dholeand the dingo The gray wolf has very dense and fluffy winter fur, with short underfur and long, coarse guard hairs. Especially long hairs are on the shoulders, and almost form a crest on the upper part of the neck. The hairs on the cheeks are elongated and form tufts.
The ears are covered in short hairs, which strongly project from the fur. Short, elastic and closely adjacent hairs are present on the limbs from the elbows down to the calcaneal tendons. Wolf fur provides better insulation than dog fur, and does not collect ice when warm breath is condensed against it.
Older wolves generally have more white hairs in the tip of the tail, along the nose and on the forehead. The winter fur is retained longest in lactating females, though with some hair loss around their nipples. Coat color ranges from almost pure white through various shades of blond, cream, and ochre to grays, browns, and blacks,  with variation in fur color tending to increase in higher latitudes. The gray wolf is a social animal, whose basic social unit consists of a mated pair, accompanied by the pair’s adult offspring.
In the rare cases where other wolves are adopted, the wokf is almost invariably an immature animal 1—3 years of age unlikely to compete for breeding rights with the mated pair. In some cases, a lone wolf is adopted into a pack to replace a deceased breeder. Wolves are highly territorial animals, and generally establish territories far larger than they require to survive in order to assure a steady supply of prey.
Territory size depends largely on the amount of prey available and the age of the pack’s pups, tending to increase in size in areas with low prey populations  or when the pups wf110 the age of 6 months, thus having the same nutritional needs as adults.
Wolves defend their territories from other tw110 through a combination of scent markingdirect attacks and howling see Communication.
Scent marking is used for territorial advertisement, and involves urination, defecation and ground scratching. Such markers can last for 2—3 weeks,  and are typically placed near rocks, boulders, trees, or the skeletons of large animals. The gray wolf is generally monogamous with mated pairs usually remaining together for life.
Upon the death of one mated wolf, pairs wolv quickly re-established. Since males often predominate in any given wolf population, unpaired females are a rarity.
Such gray wolves are termed ” Casanova wolves” and, unlike males from established qolf, they do not form pair bonds with the females they mate with. Some gray wolf packs may have multiple breeding females this way, as is the case in Yellowstone National Park.
This might take place if the original parents die or are for some reason separated from them. The age of first breeding in gray wolves aolf largely on environmental factors: This is further demonstrated by wlf fact that captive wolves have been known to breed as soon as they reach 9—10 months, while the youngest recorded breeding wolves in the wild were 2 years old.
Females are capable of producing pups every year, with one litter annually being the average.
Unlike the coyote, the gray wolf never reaches reproductive tw110. The gestation period lasts 62—75 days, with pups usually being born in the summer period. Wolves bear relatively large pups in small litters compared to other canid species. The milk canines erupt after one month.
Pups first leave the den after 3 weeks.
Mother wolves do not leave the den for the first few weeks, relying on the fathers to provide food for them and their young. Pups begin to eat solid food at the age of 3—4 weeks. Pups have a fast growth rate during their first four months of life: Actual fights to establish hierarchy usually occur at 5—8 weeks of age. This is in contrast to young foxes and coyotes, which may begin fighting even before the onset of play behavior.
Although social animals, single wolves or mated pairs typically have higher success rates in hunting than do large packs, with single wolves having occasionally been observed to kill large prey such as moosebison and muskoxen unaided. Because of this, it rarely manages to capture hidden hares or birds, though it can easily follow fresh tracks. The actual killing method varies according to prey species.
With large prey, mature wolves usually avoid attacking frontally, instead focusing on the rear and sides of the animal. Large prey, such as moose, is killed by biting large chunks of flesh from the soft perineum area, causing massive blood loss. With small, mouse -like prey, wolves leap in a high arc and immobilize it with their forepaws. Such instances are common in domestic animals, but rare in the wild.
In the wild, surplus killing primarily occurs during late winter or spring, when snow is unusually deep thus impeding the movements of prey  or during the denning period, when wolves require a ready supply of meat when denbound. Once prey is brought down, wolves begin to feed excitedly, ripping and tugging at the carcass in all directions, and bolting down large chunks of it.
When food is scarce, this is done at the expense of other family members, especially non-pups. Once the breeding pair has finished eating, the rest of the family tears off pieces of the carcass and transport them to secluded areas where they can eat in peace. Wolves typically commence feeding by consuming the larger internal organs of their prey, such as the heartliverlungs and stomach lining. The kidneys and spleen are eaten once they are exposed, followed by the muscles.