Criteria for inclusion: When is a wolf a wolf?

Discuss wolves (news, sightings, etc.).

Moderators: Isela, Koa

Post Reply
User avatar
La Striata
Yearling
Yearling
Posts: 353
Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2010 9:01 pm
Location: Wadi-Abu-Diba

Criteria for inclusion: When is a wolf a wolf?

Post by La Striata » Fri Nov 09, 2012 9:31 am

Just thought this would be worth discussing in depth.

What criteria does a canid have to follow in order to be included in this forum's "General discussion", "Wolf Q&A" and "Conservation" pages? I bring this up because I've noticed that there are a few posts on Ethiopian wolves in those sections, yet other species, like coyotes and golden jackals, end up in the "Other canids" section. On what basis are Ethiopian wolves allowed into sections which really are the domain of Canis lupus proper? If we're operating on the sake of appearances/taxonomy, then really coyotes and g. jackals should be included in the "Wolf" sections too, as they are definitely more closely related to lupus than the Ethiopian wolf is, and as far as appearances go, I personally would sooner mistake a coyote or g. jackal for a wolf than I would an E. wolf. Is it simply due to its name? Were the coyote to be more commonly known by its synonym "brush wolf" and the golden jackal "reed wolf", would they be eligible for inclusion?

This is actually one of the reasons why I'm not too keen on naming species after others (that is, simply calling a unique animal a "wolf", then just adding an adjective). The Ethiopian wolf is no more a wolf than an African wild dog is... well, a dog. If it wasn't for the fact that no-one would know what I'm talking about, I'd refer to the E. wolf by its indigenous name; "Kebero". But then again, maybe the "kebero" has actually benefited from its English name; call it a wolf, and suddenly everyone's attention is drawn to it. By that logic, perhaps European countries hoping to raise awareness of the jackal populations migrating west from Asia ought to use the term "reed wolf" more often.

What are your thoughts?
I cannot see that wolves are in any way nobler in character than hyenas- Frederick Selous

calxmity
WQ Report Team Retiree
WQ Report Team Retiree
Posts: 198
Joined: Sun Sep 30, 2012 11:10 am

Re: Criteria for inclusion: When is a wolf a wolf?

Post by calxmity » Fri Nov 09, 2012 5:30 pm

The Ethiopian Wolf and coyote and jackal are not subspecies of the gray wolf- and I have seen many 'Ethiopian Wolf' topics floating around in the wolf boards. I dont believe that coyotes and jackals should be discussed in the wolf boards because this is WolfQuest, and these Wolf Boards are for wolves. I only posted of organisms related to Canis Lupus here; as in why I discuss Ethiopian Wolves, Jackals, and Coyotes in the 'Other Canids' forum.
green - cavetown

User avatar
La Striata
Yearling
Yearling
Posts: 353
Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2010 9:01 pm
Location: Wadi-Abu-Diba

Re: Criteria for inclusion: When is a wolf a wolf?

Post by La Striata » Mon Nov 12, 2012 7:59 am

I supposed it would be unfair to single out WolfQuest, so I sent a similar question to IWC. I'll get back to you all upon getting a reply.
I cannot see that wolves are in any way nobler in character than hyenas- Frederick Selous

Nordue
Guest
Guest

Re: Criteria for inclusion: When is a wolf a wolf?

Post by Nordue » Mon Nov 12, 2012 10:16 am

  • It comforts me to know that I am not the only one on this forum who expresses confusion at the general understanding of what classifies a wolf as a wolf. Like you, my stance is that a wolf as a member of the species Canis lupus and/or one of its subsequent subspecies. Anything outside of Canis lupus, including Canis simensis is not a wolf in my books. In my opinion, the wolf boards should follow taxonomic classifications only, and not the general's public understanding of what is a wolf (similarities in physiology and morphology). If we followed the latter, then scientific figures like this have no bearing: http://ars.els-cdn.com/content/image/1- ... 58-gr2.jpg.

    As for C. a. lupaster, I believe that the common knowledge of this community hasn't quite caught up yet to the fact that they are now recognized as a wolf subspecies (http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Ad ... ne.0016385). Perhaps the movement of African wolf topics into the appropriate board would hasten acceptance of this? And a sticked topic that carefully introduces the idea would be good too, since it's nomenclature does not yet reflect the changes in taxonomic understanding. I would volunteer to do this if it is deemed to be needed :D .

    I am really eager to read your reply from the IWC La Striata, as they would be a good source to ask!

User avatar
La Striata
Yearling
Yearling
Posts: 353
Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2010 9:01 pm
Location: Wadi-Abu-Diba

Re: Criteria for inclusion: When is a wolf a wolf?

Post by La Striata » Thu Nov 15, 2012 1:59 am

Thank you for contacting the International Wolf Center. The Center
supports wolf survival around the world through science-based education.
Our website is dedicated to providing a variety of educational resources
related to wolves in general. This includes gray wolves, Canis lupus, and
its varieties (subspecies), red wovles, Canis rufus, and animals that may
be considered wolves such as the Ethiopian canid often referred to as a
wolf and a jackal. Additionally, this may also include associated species
or closely related species such as the coyote in North America. Most
people living in the United States live with coyotes rather than wolves so
educating about the similarities and differences of the two species is
important to help people understand wolves.

Current research suggests that the Ethiopian canid may be more closely
related to wolves than jackals. However, genetic molecular biology is
fairly new relative to the traditional morphological studies and therefore
requires a significant amount of peer review for conclusions to be made.
I feel somewhat shortchanged....



EDIT:
I've decided to give them another chance to clarify their position on wolf-like canids.

Here's a draft of what I intend to send them:
Dear ****,

Thank your for your reply, however I think you may have misunderstood the premise to my question, which was this:

What criteria does a canid have to follow in order to be classed as a wolf (and thus merit mention in IWC's website)? From what I can gather, it would appear that there are really only two criteria;

1) that the animal is part of the genus "Canis".

2) that it's English name just so happens to have the word "wolf" within it. (see here: http://www.wolf.org/wolves/learn/basic/ ... cation.asp)

The criteria certainly can't be appearance, because "C. simensis" looks far less wolf-like than "C. latrans" or "C. aureus", and it can't be genetic closeness either, as the two latter canids are much more closely related to "lupus" than "simensis" is. For this latter part, I draw your attention to the recently mapped canid phylogenetic tree; http://ars.els-cdn.com/content/image/1- ... 58-gr2.jpg

As you can see, the Ethiopian wolf comes far behind the coyote and golden jackal in terms of affinity to the grey wolf.

In closing, I want you to know that I've always admired IWC's objectivity. I don't want to seem confrontational, I'm simply curious, and greatly appreciate the time and patience you've so far granted me.

With kindest regards.
***

P.S. In your last message, I think you may have mixed the golden jackal up with the black-backed and side-striped jackals, which are indeed very far from the grey wolf (further than "simensis" is). See the phylogenetic tree.
I haven't sent it yet, but I thought I'd post it here so that I can get your opinions. Is it too inflammatory/unclear, or is it okay to send it in your view?
Last edited by BlackWarrior on Thu Nov 15, 2012 8:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Adding additional information from double post.
I cannot see that wolves are in any way nobler in character than hyenas- Frederick Selous

User avatar
BlackWarrior
Former WQ Moderator
Posts: 2515
Joined: Sun Jan 09, 2011 6:25 pm
Gender: Female
Location: In the Mountains

Re: Criteria for inclusion: When is a wolf a wolf?

Post by BlackWarrior » Thu Nov 15, 2012 8:55 pm

In the future, please try to avoid double-posting, La Striata and instead use the edit feature. Thanks! ^^

Although, on a side note, I think that is makes up for some interesting discussion, and I'm wondering what will end up being the final verdict. I agree that there has often been some confusion as to what is considered a WOLF, so having clarification would prove to be very helpful. I've read over your previous reply from IWC and think it would be perfectly acceptable to send a further reply clarifying your question. :) Thanks for looking into this!
Not all who w a n d e r are l o s t

Community Moderator ( April 2012 – July 2015 )
WQ Report Team ( 2012 – 2013 )
User of the Month ( December 2011 )


Avatar © Windripper

User avatar
La Striata
Yearling
Yearling
Posts: 353
Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2010 9:01 pm
Location: Wadi-Abu-Diba

Re: Criteria for inclusion: When is a wolf a wolf?

Post by La Striata » Mon Nov 19, 2012 11:26 am

Hello ****,

As stated in my last email, the International Wolf Center is a
science-based, educational organization. The Center teaches about all
wolf-related canids including those that are not technically classified as
a wolf under current classification but may be theorized as possibly being
a wolf species.
Modern classification of wolves is based on new DNA data,
reasonable interpretation of morphological factors, and possibly
behavioral factors (acting like a wolf).

The Center does not conduct this research, nor does it classify species.
The Center follows the best available science. Currently, the scientific
community at large follows the Nowak theory for classifying wolf species.

Please see Dr. L. David Mech's 2003 publication Wolves, Chapter 9 for how
the Center educates about wolves.

As for your concern regarding our webpage listing the classification of a
species, the Center did not create this information. Classification of any
species is based on a universal classification system using latin
terminology. The word "wolf" is an English word, however, is not the
classifying terminology. For "wolf" in a variety of other languages,
please see Wolves of the World where the name for Canis lupus is listed in
the native language (where available).

Your link to the evolutionary tree of canids is very appealing. However, I
do not see any references to who created this tree, what resources they
used or what scientific research it represents. Therefore, I cannot use it
as a credible source of information.
Perhaps in my next correspondence, I should ask then why it is that the IWC search engine lists 666 entries on the Ethiopian wolf, 42 on coyotes, and 14 on the golden jackal (most of which only do so in passing, in articles mentioning the new African wolf).

Also, for future reference, the phylogeny graph came from here; http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v4 ... 8_F10.html a 2005 article from Nature magazine on the genome of the domestic dog.

EDIT: Possible counterpoints;
The Center teaches about all
wolf-related canids including those that are not technically classified as
a wolf under current classification but may be theorized as possibly being
a wolf species.
In that case, why is there such a disproportionate amount of info on Ethiopian wolves, so little on coyotes, and practically nothing on golden jackals?
Modern classification of wolves is based on new DNA data,
reasonable interpretation of morphological factors, and possibly
behavioral factors (acting like a wolf).
I agree on the DNA part, but when it comes to behaviour the E. wolf is a highly specialised rodent-hunter, while the coyote and golden jackal are opportunists much more akin to grey wolves in behaviour.
The Center does not conduct this research, nor does it classify species.
The Center follows the best available science. Currently, the scientific
community at large follows the Nowak theory for classifying wolf species.

Please see Dr. L. David Mech's 2003 publication Wolves, Chapter 9 for how
the Center educates about wolves.
I have checked the source, and Nowak clearly states that the E. wolf, although part of the wolf-coyote group (though he oddly doesn't mention golden jackals), is much more distantly related to the grey wolf than the coyote is.
As for your concern regarding our webpage listing the classification of a
species, the Center did not create this information. Classification of any
species is based on a universal classification system using latin
terminology. The word "wolf" is an English word, however, is not the
classifying terminology. For "wolf" in a variety of other languages,
please see Wolves of the World where the name for Canis lupus is listed in
the native language (where available).
I was aware of that. However, my point that the main criteria for including the E. wolf into IWC does indeed seem to stem solely from its genus and colloquial name. The latter trait seems to have been the determining factor, as it is not shared by the grey wolf's more closer cousins.
I cannot see that wolves are in any way nobler in character than hyenas- Frederick Selous

User avatar
Canis-Dirus
Newborn Wolf
Newborn Wolf
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Nov 19, 2012 6:27 pm

Re: Criteria for inclusion: When is a wolf a wolf?

Post by Canis-Dirus » Tue Nov 20, 2012 11:50 pm

Overall the application of the word 'wolf' to a common name of a species is one big, jumbled up mess. Even when one goes at it by a genetic standpoint things make little sense. Why call one animal a Himilayan Wolf and another a Coyote when the latter is far closer to the Gray Wolf than the former?

My best guess is people just use size as a rough estimate on what's a wolf and what's not (and even this has holes in it); hence why most large, fossil canines are called the '____ Wolf' regardless of how close or far apart they were from the Gray Wolf. Even species that are only remotely related canines to the Gray Wolf, I've seen being called wolves by some, such as a schoolbook listing Epicyon as a 'Powerful Wolf'.
Even non-canines get affected. The day I found a now-defunct website calling Andrewsarchus the 'Giant Wolf' was the day i distinctly recall banging my head on a wall for a good minute.


To me, the word 'Wolf' should only be used for the Gray Wolf and its subspecies. Plain and simple.

User avatar
La Striata
Yearling
Yearling
Posts: 353
Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2010 9:01 pm
Location: Wadi-Abu-Diba

Re: Criteria for inclusion: When is a wolf a wolf?

Post by La Striata » Wed Nov 21, 2012 4:19 am

To come up with an analogy, it would be like setting up a leopard-conservation society, and including clouded leopards into the organisation, despite the fact that (normal) leopards are actually more closely related to tigers and lions than they are to clouded leopards. Better yet, set up a fox-conservation society and include grey foxes, despite the fact that grey foxes aren't really foxes at all, yet omit raccoon dogs, which are more closely related to red/arctic foxes than the grey fox is. Again, we'd have a case where inclusion is based entirely on the capriciousness of English nomenclature rather than taxonomy.

Personally, I don't know if I should bother corresponding with IWC on this issue anymore. I don't doubt the secretaries are knowledgeable about wolf conservation and ecology in North America, but I don't think they're well versed in canid phylogeny and genetics.
I cannot see that wolves are in any way nobler in character than hyenas- Frederick Selous

Nordue
Guest
Guest

Re: Criteria for inclusion: When is a wolf a wolf?

Post by Nordue » Wed Nov 21, 2012 11:39 pm

  • Indeed, we may have to settle for independently researching the primary literature available to us and form our own conclusions on what a 'wolf' is. That's how I came across that tree.

    As the IWC said in your quote there La Striata, they don't claim to have invented the classification system that is standard in the scientific community. They basically said in a roundabout way (i.e., without making any conclusive statements) that the biological nomenclature system is the way to know what defines a wolf at the species level, and that they rely on other groups to conduct research for them to interpret. Makes sense, that's what we do to some extent.

    This also explains why their statements here included brief mention about species other than Canis lupus; it suggests that the objectives of the IWC as a whole encompass more than just information about gray wolves exclusively, which they have every right to do. They interpret and organize the information to meet the goals of their institution, which includes more than just C.lupus. Not the most clear-cut source for making definitive statements on what the exact chemistry of a wolf is. But it was worth a try!

    Shame you didn't link the tree to its article on your email, but I doubt it would have changed their opinions anyway. If it did, that would basically point to the rather disappointing idea that the IWC doesn't regularly update their factual information. Hmm :| !

    Although I'll definitely look into this Nowak Theory. I feel like I might already know what it entails, just under different names.
    Canis-Dirus wrote:Why call one animal a Himilayan Wolf and another a Coyote when the latter is far closer to the Gray Wolf than the former?
    Interesting statement Canis-Dirus. Do you have any literature to back this statement up? If I am interpreting it correctly, you are stating that the Himalayan wolf is not a subspecies of the gray wolf, and that the coyote is more closely related to the gray wolf than the Himalayan wolf?

User avatar
Canis-Dirus
Newborn Wolf
Newborn Wolf
Posts: 7
Joined: Mon Nov 19, 2012 6:27 pm

Re: Criteria for inclusion: When is a wolf a wolf?

Post by Canis-Dirus » Fri Nov 23, 2012 11:38 pm

Tonbei wrote:
  • Canis-Dirus wrote:Why call one animal a Himilayan Wolf and another a Coyote when the latter is far closer to the Gray Wolf than the former?
    Interesting statement Canis-Dirus. Do you have any literature to back this statement up? If I am interpreting it correctly, you are stating that the Himalayan wolf is not a subspecies of the gray wolf, and that the coyote is more closely related to the gray wolf than the Himalayan wolf?
I admit to exaggeration with the statement 'far closer', but in truth the relation between Coyotes and the Gray Wolf and its relation is so close is honestly is hard to tell who's closer to whom. Needless to say, the case is the species are so close it's hard not to warrant calling the coyote a Wolf. If the Dire Wolf could be just as removed from the Gray Wolf and still be called a wolf, why can't the Coyote?

Both the Himalayan and Indian Wolves' status as mere subspecies has been called into question recently on grounds of genetics, morphology; and behavior which differs them from Grays. While they are part of the lineage that lead to the modern Gray Wolf, they seem to represent a more ancient branch of the family that existed just before the "Canis lupus" species came into its own.

Aggarwal, R. K., Kivisild, T., Ramadevi, J., Singh, L. (2007). "Mitochondrial DNA coding region sequences support the phylogenetic distinction of two Indian wolf species"


Further more, why the distinction of closeness of relation between Coyote, Gray Wolf and Himalayan Wolf is dubious; it is certain the Coyote and Jackal are closer to the Gray Wolf than the so called "Ethiopian Wolf". Genetics studies of the various Canine genomes show the Ethiopian species branched off some 4 million years ago, nearly 2 million before the split between Coyote and Gray Wolf in regards to the New World and Old World branches.

Lindblad-Toh et al.; Wade, CM; Mikkelsen, TS; Karlsson, EK; Jaffe, DB; Kamal, M; Clamp, M; Chang, JL et al. (2005). "Genome sequence, comparative analysis and haplotype structure of the domestic dog"



My point stands. People tend to call _____ a wolf when a animal is a certain size, with no regard to its genetics. While this would be acceptable in times before sequencing, there is no such excuse now; and correcting some of these names could help the species or its awareness in the long run. It also demonstrates a bias towards species with the word 'Wolf' in their name.
If it was announced tomorrow that thousands of "Prairie Wolves" were slaughtered this month, I guarantee that multitudes of wolf advocates from Europe and North America would be up in arms before they realized what "Prairie Wolves" are.

I stand firm on my judgment. "Wolf" should only be used to refer to the Gray Wolf; and use of it in inappropriate cases only leads to confusion.

Nordue
Guest
Guest

Re: Criteria for inclusion: When is a wolf a wolf?

Post by Nordue » Sat Dec 01, 2012 2:49 am

  • I agree; the distinction between Indian, Tibetan and Himalyan wolf is confusing. Someone should get that conversation going too :wink:. I myself am not totally clear on what the current classifications are; I believe that the Indian wolf is not currently recognized as a gray wolf subspecies, due to the recent classification technology upgrades you mentioned Canis-Dirus. I'll post some stuff on that later maybe, I know I have a good link stored somewhere.

    This is an instance where wrapping one's head around the idea that the Indian wolf is quite possibly not a wolf on the genetic level makes me question my own stance on 'wolf' classification being limited to Canis lupus. It jut sounds odd to say that the Indian wolf is not a wolf, yet at the same time its easier to state exactly what a wolf is when one is only taking into consideration Canis lupus subspecies. Argh, we need a definite statement by an expert!

User avatar
La Striata
Yearling
Yearling
Posts: 353
Joined: Fri Dec 31, 2010 9:01 pm
Location: Wadi-Abu-Diba

Re: Criteria for inclusion: When is a wolf a wolf?

Post by La Striata » Sun Apr 27, 2014 12:28 pm

Here's a phylogenetic tree I drew up of all Canis species closely related enough to produce hybrids:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/ ... logeny.jpg

I did this piece in order to clarify the relationships between Canis species capable of hybridizing, hence why I omitted the black-backed and side-striped jackals, which are too primitive to reproduce with any of the above shown species. One thing that I hope should become immediately apparent in this piece is the fact that the term "wolf" is taxonomically meaningless. For example, the Ethiopian wolf is usually considered a "legitimate" wolf, yet the golden jackal is more closely related to the grey wolf than the Ethiopian wolf is, yet it is classed as a "jackal" (an equally meaningless term from a genetic standpoint). Furthermore, the coyote is also far more closely related to the gray wolf than the Ethiopian wolf is, yet it is termed "coyote", and isn't usually included as much in wolf fansites or organisations. Yet more confusion stems from the eastern and red wolf. Assuming that they are in fact distinct species, the phylogenetic tree makes it clear that they branched off from the same lineage as the coyote, not the grey wolf, yet they are in turn classed as "wolves".

So, what do the coyote and golden jackal have in common that excludes them from the "legitimate" wolves by laypeople? Perhaps they are doing too well from a conservation point of view to warrant the PR boost that the name "wolf" usually gives a species. Would people care more about coyotes and golden jackals if they retained their less common names of "prarie wolf" and "reed wolf"? I think they would, considering some self-proclaimed armchair "wolf experts" on the internet exclude these two species, yet include completely unrelated animals (outside the genus Canis) like the maned wolf or Falkland Island wolf.

The sources used are:

* Wilson, P.J., Grewal, S., Lawford, I.D., Heal, J.N.M., Granacki, A.G., Pennock, D., Theberge, J.B., Theberge, M.T., Voigt, D.R., Waddell, W., Chambers, R.E., Paquet, P.C., Goulet, G., Cluff, D., White, B.N. (2000). "DNA profiles of the eastern Canadian wolf and the red wolf provide evidence for a common evolutionary history independent of the gray wolf". Canadian Journal of Zoology 78: 2156–2166.

* Lindblad-Toh, K.; Wade, CM; Mikkelsen, TS; Karlsson, EK; Jaffe, DB; Kamal, M; Clamp, M; Chang, JL et al. (2005). "Genome sequence, comparative analysis and haplotype structure of the domestic dog". Nature 438 (7069): 803–819.
I cannot see that wolves are in any way nobler in character than hyenas- Frederick Selous

User avatar
Chumpkins_
Senior Member
Senior Member
Posts: 425
Joined: Mon Dec 16, 2013 8:59 pm
Name:
Gender: Male
Location: ‍ ‍ ‍

Re: Criteria for inclusion: When is a wolf a wolf?

Post by Chumpkins_ » Wed Apr 30, 2014 4:57 pm

Thanks for posting, La Striata. I am sure this will clear some confusion up.
_-:¡!*"*!¡:-_
_-:¡!*"Warden"*!¡:-_
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
In war, victory
In peace, vigilance
In death, sacrifice
. . . . . . . . . . . . .

av/sig: alethe

Post Reply

Return to “General Wolf Discussion”