Arctic wolf

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Arctic wolf
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Genus: Canis
Species: C. lupus
Subspecies: C. l. arctos
Trinomial name
Canis lupus arctos
Pocock, 1935
Arcticwolf distribution.gif
C. l. arctos range

The Arctic wolf (Canis lupus arctos), also known as the Melville Island wolf[1] is a possible subspecies of gray wolf native to the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, from Melville Island to Ellesmere Island.[1] It is a medium-sized subspecies, distinguished from the northwestern wolf by its smaller size, its whiter coloration, its narrower braincase,[2] and larger carnassials.[3] Since 1930, there has been a progressive reduction in size in Arctic wolf skulls, which is likely the result of wolf-dog hybridization.[3]

Contrary to its mainland counterparts, the Arctic wolf has never been seriously hunted or pursued, as the high Arctic holds few human settlements. As a result, the Arctic wolf is relatively unafraid of people, and can be coaxed to approach people in some areas.[4] It has occasionally acted aggressively toward humans. Otto Sverdrup wrote that during the Fram expedition, a pair of wolves attacked one of his team-mates, who defended himself with a skiing pole.[5] In 1977, a pair of scientists were approached by six wolves on Ellesmere Island, with one animal leaping at one of the scientists and grazing a cheek. A number of incidents involving aggressive wolves have occurred in Alert, Nunavut, where the wolves have lived in close proximity to the local weather station for decades and become habituated to humans.[6]

The Arctic wolf was first described as a distinct subspecies by British zoologist Reginald Pocock in 1935, after having examined a single skull from Melville Island.[3] As of 2005,[7] the Arctic wolf is still recognized as a distinct subspecies by MSW3. However, studies undertaken on Arctic wolf autosomal microsatellite DNA and mtDNA data indicate that the Arctic wolf has no unique haplotypes, thus indicating that its colonization of the Arctic Archipelago from the North American mainland was relatively recent, and thus not sufficient to warrant subspecies status.[8] However, the research of Chambers et al. (2012) that dismissed the Arctic wolf's genetic integrity became controversial, forcing the USF&WS to commission a peer review of it, known as NCAES (2014).[9] This peer review highlighted numerous flaws in the research such as the erroneous merging of the coastal BC island wolves with the inland Canis lupus nubilus as well as suggesting that gray wolves never lived in the eastern third of the US, etc, and thus concluded unanimously that the Chambers' review "is not accepted as consensus scientific opinion or best available science".


  1. ^ a b Mech, L. David (1981), The Wolf: The Ecology and Behaviour of an Endangered Species, University of Minnesota Press, p. 352, ISBN 0-8166-1026-6
  2. ^ Goldman, E. A. (1964). Classification of wolves. In The Wolves of North America Part 2. Young, S. P. & Goldman, E. A. (Eds.) New York: Dover Publs. p. 430.
  3. ^ a b c Clutton-Brock, J., A. C. Kitchener, & J. M. Lynch. (1994) Changes in the skull morphology of the Arctic wolf, Canis lupus arctos, during the twentieth century. Journal of Zoology (London) 233:19–36.
  4. ^ Mech, L. D., Arctic Wolves and Their Prey, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, May 30, 2007
  5. ^ Sverdrup, O. N., (1918), New land; four years in the Arctic regions, Vol. I, London Longmans, Green, pp. 431-432
  6. ^ Linnell, J.D.C., et al (2002), The Fear of Wolves: A Review of Wolf Attacks on Humans, NINA, pp. 29-31, ISBN 82-426-1292-7
  7. ^ Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  8. ^ Chambers SM, Fain SR, Fazio B, Amaral M (2012). "An account of the taxonomy of North American wolves from morphological and genetic analyses". North American Fauna 77: 1–67. doi:10.3996/nafa.77.0001. Retrieved 2013-07-02. 
  9. ^

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