Use of cranial characters in taxonomy of the Minnesota wolf (Canis sp.)

L. David Mech, Ronald M. Nowak, Sanford Weisberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Minnesota wolves (Canis sp.) sometimes are reported to have affinity to a small, narrow-skulled eastern form (Canis lupus lycaon Schreber, 1775) and sometimes to a larger, broader western form (Canis lupus nubilus Say, 1823). We found that pre-1950 Minnesota wolf skulls were similar in size to those of wolves from southeastern Ontario and smaller than those of western wolves. However, Minnesota wolf skulls during 1970-1976 showed a shift to the larger, western form. Although Minnesota skull measurements after 1976 were unavailable, rostral ratios from 1969 through 1999 were consistent with hybridization between the smaller eastern wolf and the western form. Our findings help resolve the different taxonomic interpretations of Minnesota skull morphology and are consistent with molecular evidence of recent hybridization or intergradation of the two forms of wolves in Minnesota. Together these data indicate that eastern- and western-type wolves historically mixed and hybridized in Minnesota and continue to do so. Our findings are relevant to a recent government proposal to delist wolves from the endangered species list in Minnesota and surrounding states.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1188-1194
Number of pages7
JournalCanadian Journal of Zoology
Volume89
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2011

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