the gray wolf


 The gray wolf, also known as the common wolf, is one of the best-known types of dogs. However, gray wolves can eventually be confused with other types of wolves, as well as some wolf-like dog breeds. Traditionally, wisdom and popular culture often claim that dogs are descended from wolves. Although some genetic research has demonstrated that dogs are genetically related to gray wolves, it is not yet possible to say with precisely whether dogs are directly derived from this species.

If you want to learn more about the gray wolf curiosity, we invite you to continue reading this dog57 fact sheet to learn more about the origin, behavior, and breeding of gray wolves.

What is the origin of the gray wolf?

Today, a species called Miacis cognatus, belonging to the oldest known group of primitive carnivores (Miacis), is known as the common ancestor of all modern carnivorous mammals, including dogs. It is estimated that these early ancestors of the Carnivores lived during the Late Cretaceous period, which spanned from 100 to 66 million years ago.

Subsequently, the members of Miacis began to differentiate morphologically, which gave rise to various groups of carnivorous mammals, among them the first dogs living on our planet (the Hasbrochionen), which first appeared about 38 million years ago. After making several evolutionary changes, the Hesperocionins gave rise to Eucion Davis, a primitive dog species that lived about 10 million years ago and was probably the first to cross the Bering Strait and reach the African continent and Eurasia, where they will appear years ago. Later the first modern canids.

However, the first recorded fossil specifically associated with the gray wolf dates back to about 800,000 years ago. Originally, the world's population of gray wolves was very plentiful and stretched across Eurasia, North America, and even the Middle East. Unfortunately, hunting and transformations in its territory associated with the productive and economic progress of man led to a significant decrease in the habitat of the gray wolf, as well as its population.

What are the physical features of the gray wolf?

Like most wolf species, gray wolves exhibit great morphological diversity. The size, weight, and body dimensions of each individual belonging to this species can vary greatly, depending primarily on the conditions of its habitat. In general, the colder and more extreme the climate of its territory, the larger and more powerful the wolf would be. Regardless of their precise measurements, all wolves maintain harmonious lines and balanced proportions on their bodies, allowing them to make the quick and precise movements necessary in hunting style.

In general, a gray wolf's body length is between 1.3 and 2 metres, measured from the nose to the tip of its tail, which usually accounts for up to the total length. The height at the withers ranges from 60 cm in the smallest individuals to 90 cm in the largest. Average body weight is also highly variable, ranging from 35-40 kg in females to about 70 kg in adult males.

Their anatomy is perfectly adapted to the long distances that they have always needed to travel in their homeland in search of food. A strong back, narrow chest, and legs with highly developed muscles are some of the notable physical features of gray wolves that facilitate their movement and provide them with great resistance to face long days of hunting.

Their "off-road" legs are also very important for their adaptability, as they are willing to walk on different surfaces. Between their toes, gray wolves have a small intervening membrane that facilitates their movement through the snow that abounds in their territory during the winter. They are also graded animals, i.e. They walk on their toes without leaning on their heels, which have longer hind legs and only show the arched fifth toe on their front legs.

The gray wolf's head and snout are smaller than that of other species of wolves, and its chest is usually slightly narrower. Likewise, its teeth are very sharp in their powerful jaw, so its bite is really strong. Their coat colors can vary as well, but as their more common name indicates, gray tones of their coat usually predominate, with reflections or tufts in hues of yellow, orange, or red. In contrast, their eyes are usually yellow.

What is a behavioral adaptation of a GREY Wolf?

Gray wolves usually live in groups that can combine between 5 and 20 individuals that respect a well-developed hierarchical structure. Generally, a wolf pack consists of a breeding pair, made up of an alpha and mate (known as a beta female), and their offspring. Ultimately, it is possible to observe wolves traveling alone, but the reason why they are separated from their pack is unknown.

This ability to social organization, the instinct of protection, and cooperation between members of the herd was essential to the survival of gray wolves, as it allows them to improve their efficiency when hunting in groups, ensuring better nutrition for all members of the herd. The herd, in addition to achieving greater reproductive success, bearing in mind that males and females do not need to be exposed to adverse climatic conditions to converge and that the cubs are less likely to be attacked by predators because they are protected by their herd.

Speaking of nutrition, wolves are carnivorous mammals whose diet is based on consuming prey that they were able to hunt in their habitat. For this reason, the diet of the gray wolf can vary according to the biological diversity of its environment, that is, according to the animals that live in the vicinity of its territory. In general, the "favorite" prey of gray wolves are medium-sized animals such as pigs, goats, reindeer, bison, deer, sheep, antelope, elk, and others. But they can also hunt small prey, such as birds and rodents, especially if they detect a lack of food in their environment.

Individuals living in marine areas can also include aquatic mammals in their diet, especially seals. Additionally, wolves from Alaska to Canada may consume salmon to supplement their nutrition. Ultimately, wolves living near urban centers can benefit from human food scraps during times of low food availability.

It is also important to note the distinct vocalization ability of gray wolves, which plays an essential role in communication between group members and their social organization. Howling is their main sound and helps the herd to keep in touch even when some members go out to hunt or during mating seasons, when breeding pairs are separated for several days from their group to mate.

 In addition, howls also help keep potential predators or wolves away from other groups that may eventually want to come close to feuding over the area.

What is the breeding strategy for gray wolves?

The reproductive behavior of wolves can vary depending on the species and the conditions of their habitat. Gray wolves stand out for being one of the most faithful animals to their partner, always mating with the same individual until one of them dies. Generally, a breeding couple mates only to produce puppies, but if the pride lives in an area with plenty of food and favorable weather conditions, siblings may also breed. On the contrary, if they realize the scarcity of food and the unfavorable conditions in their environment, the breeding pair may decide not to have children to avoid a lack of food for the herd.

Wolves' breeding season occurs between January and April, during winter and early spring in the northern hemisphere. Males begin to be more affectionate concerning females, dedicating themselves to taking care of them and spending more time beside them, a few weeks before they enter their fertile period.

 In each season, females can receive about 5 to 14 days, during which they will mate several times with their partners. Additionally, males tend to ejaculate multiple times per mount, which increases the reproductive success of their species.

Gray wolves' gestation period usually lasts about 60 days, at the end of which they usually give birth to 4 to 6 young, although they can give birth to more than 10. With the help of the male, the female will find a cave or shelter where she can safely experience childbirth and suckling. Their mother will nurse the cubs and they stay with her at the shelter for the first three months of their lives. The alpha male will be the main responsible for protecting the cave from his herd, only when it is necessary to leave for food.

After three months of life, the cubs will begin to gain more independence and explore their environment, trying new foods offered by their parents. But only after 6 months of their life will they be able to support themselves. When they complete their growth and become sexually mature, usually after the second year of their lives, young wolves often separate from their original flock (those of their parents and siblings) to mate and form their flock.

Is the gray wolf still endangered?

Currently, the gray wolf is classified as a species of "least concern", according to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species. However, its population has declined drastically over the past two centuries, particularly in North America and Eurasia.

Hunting remains the biggest threat to the conservation of this species, as wolves are often mistakenly considered dangerous animals or they can attack people for no reason. For this reason, it is necessary to increase investments in awareness campaigns about the behavior and importance of wolves in their ecosystems, as well as better identification of productive areas and urban centers to prevent them from making excessive or unplanned advances on the habitat of gray wolves .

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