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

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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.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Biological Resources Discipline, US Geological Survey, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, 8711 – 37th Street Southeast, Jamestown, ND 58401-7317, USA. 2: 2101 Greenwich Street, Falls Church, VA 22043, USA. 3: University of Minnesota, School of Statistics, 312 Ford Hall, 224 Church Street Southeast, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.

Publication date: 2011-12-16

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  • Published since 1929, this monthly journal reports on primary research contributed by respected international scientists in the broad field of zoology, including behaviour, biochemistry and physiology, developmental biology, ecology, genetics, morphology and ultrastructure, parasitology and pathology, and systematics and evolution. It also invites experts to submit review articles on topics of current interest.
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