the gray wolf or grey wolf, often known as the wolf is the largest of the canidae family. . It is an ice age survivor originating during the Late Pleistocene around 300,000 years ago. DNA sequencing and genetic drift studies reaffirm that the gray wolf shares a common ancestry with the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris). Although certain aspects of this conclusion have been questioned, the main body of evidence confirms it. A number of other gray wolf subspecies have been identified, though the actual number of subspecies is still open to discussion. Gray wolves are typically apex predators in the ecosystems they occupy.
Though once abundant over much of Eurasia and North America, the gray wolf inhabits a very small portion of its former range because of widespread destruction of its territory, human encroachment, and the resulting human-wolf encounters that sparked broad extirpation. Even so, the gray wolf is regarded as being of least concern for extinction according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, when the entire gray wolf population is considered as a whole. Today, wolves are protected in some areas, hunted for sport in others, or may be subject to extermination as perceived threats to livestock and pets.
In areas where human cultures and wolves are sympatric, wolves frequently feature in the folklore and mythology of those cultures, both positively and negatively.
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Gray wolf weight and size can vary greatly worldwide, tending to increase proportionally with latitude as predicted by Bergmann's Rule. In general, height varies from 0.6 to 0.95 meters (24 to 37 in) at the shoulder. Wolf weight varies geographically; on average, European wolves may weigh 38.5 kilograms (85 lb), North American wolves 36 kilograms (79 lb), and Indian and Arabian wolves 25 kilograms (55 lb). Though rarely encountered, extreme specimens of more than 77 kilograms (170 lb) have been recorded in Alaska, Canada, and the former Soviet Union. The heaviest recorded gray wolf in North America was killed on 70 Mile River in east-central Alaska on July 12, 1939 and weighed 79 kilograms (170 lb), while the heaviest recorded wolf in Eurasia was killed after World War II in the Kobelyakski Area of the Poltavskij Region in the Ukrainian SSR, and weighed 86 kilograms (190 lb). Grey wolves are sexually dimorphic, with females in any given wolf population typically weighing 20% less than males. Females also have narrower muzzles and foreheads; slightly shorter, smoother furred legs; and less massive shoulders. Gray wolves can measure anywhere from 1.3 to 2 meters (4.3 to 6.6 ft) from nose to the tip of the tail, which itself accounts for approximately one quarter of overall body length. Gray Wolf skeletonGray wolves rely on their stamina rather than speed for hunting. Their narrow chests and powerful backs and legs facilitate efficient locomotion. They are capable of covering several miles trotting at about 10 kilometers per hour (6 mph), and have been known to reach speeds approaching 65 kilometers per hour (40 mph) during a chase. One female gray wolf was recorded to have made 7-meter (23 ft) bounds when chasing prey.
Gray wolf paws are able to tread easily on a wide variety of terrains, especially snow. There is a slight webbing between each toe, which allows them to move over snow more easily than comparatively hampered prey. Gray wolves are digitigrade, which, with the relative largeness of their feet, helps them to distribute their weight well on snowy surfaces. The front paws are larger than the hind paws, and have a fifth digit, the dewclaw, that is absent on hind paws. Bristled hairs and blunt claws enhance grip on slippery surfaces, and special blood vessels keep paw pads from freezing. Scent glands located between a wolf's toes leave trace chemical markers behind, helping the wolf to effectively navigate over large expanses while concurrently keeping others informed of its whereabouts. Unlike dogs and western coyotes, gray wolves have a lower density of sweat glands on their paws. This trait is also present in Eastern Canadian Coyotes which have been shown to have recent wolf ancestry. Wolves in Israel are unique due to the middle two toes of their paws being fused, a trait originally thought to be unique to the African Wild Dog. Genetic research has shown that black furred wolves owe their colouration to a mutation that first arose in domestic dogsWolves have bulky coats consisting of two layers. The first layer is made up of tough guard hairs that repel water and dirt. The second is a dense, water-resistant undercoat that insulates. The undercoat is shed in the form of large tufts of fur in late spring or early summer (with yearly variations). A wolf will often rub against objects such as rocks and branches to encourage the loose fur to fall out. The undercoat is usually gray regardless of the outer coat's appearance. Wolves have distinct winter and summer pelages that alternate in spring and autumn. Females tend to keep their winter coats further into the spring than males.
Gray wolves molt some of their coats in late spring or early summer Fur coloration varies greatly, running from gray to gray-brown, all the way through the canine spectrum of white, red, brown, and black. These colors tend to mix in many populations to form predominantly blended individuals, though it is not uncommon for an individual or an entire population to be entirely one color (usually all black or all white). With the exception of Italy, in which black wolves can constitute 20-25% of the entire population, melanistic wolves rarely occur outside the North American continent. According to genetic examinations, the black coat colour is based on a mutation that first arose among domestic dogs and later migrated into the wolf-population via interbreeding. A multicolor coat characteristically lacks any clear pattern other than it tends to be lighter on the animal's underside. Fur color sometimes corresponds with a given wolf population's environment; for example, all-white wolves are much more common in areas with perennial snow cover. Aging wolves acquire a grayish tint in their coats. It is often thought that the coloration of the wolf's pelage serves as a functional form of camouflage. This may not be entirely correct, as some scientists have concluded that the blended colors have more to do with emphasizing certain gestures during interaction.
At birth, wolf pups tend to have darker fur and blue irises that will change to a yellow-gold or orange color when the pups are between 8 and 16 weeks old. Wolves' long, powerful muzzles help distinguish them from other canids, particularly coyotes and Golden Jackals, which have more narrow, pointed muzzles. In wolves, the anterior incisure of the nasal bones does not have a medial protrusion, unlike jackals. The cingulum on the external edge of the first upper molar is only slightly expressed, while it is broad and distinctly marked in jackals. Adolescent wolf with golden-yellow eyesWolves differ from domestic dogs in a more varied nature. Anatomically, wolves have smaller orbital angles than dogs (over 53 degrees for dogs, under 45 degrees for wolves) and a comparatively larger brain capacity. Larger paw size, yellow eyes, longer legs, and bigger teeth further distinguish adult wolves from other canids, especially dogs. Also, a supracaudal gland is present at the base of the tail in wolves but not in many dogs.
Wolves and most larger dogs share identical dentition. The maxilla has six incisors, two canines, eight premolars, and four molars. The mandible has six incisors, two canines, eight premolars, and six molars. The fourth upper premolars and first lower molars constitute the carnassial teeth, which are essential tools for shearing flesh. The long canine teeth are also important, in that they hold and subdue the prey. Capable of delivering up to 10,000 kilopascals (1,500 psi) of pressure, a wolf's teeth are its main weapons as well as its primary tools. This is roughly twice the pressure that a domestic dog of similar size can deliver. The dentition of grey wolves is better suited to bone crushing than those of other modern canids, though it is not as specialised as that found in hyenas.
Wolf saliva has been shown to reduce bacterial infection in wounds and accelerate tissue regeneration.
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