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Wolves, dogs and dingos
Wolves, dogs, and dingoes are subspecies of Canis lupus. The original referent of the English word wolf, the Eurasian Grey Wolf, is called Canis lupus lupus to distinguish it from other wolf subspecies, such as the Indian Wolf (Canis lupus pallipes), the Arabian Wolf (Canis lupus arabs), or the Tibetan Wolf (Canis lupus chanco), which are probably more similar to the variety of wolf that was ancestral to the modern dog (Canis lupus familiaris).
Some experts have suggested that some subspecies of C. lupus be considered Canis species distinct from Canis lupus. These include Central Asia's Himalayan Wolf, and the Indian Wolf, as well as the North America's Red Wolf and Eastern Wolf.
The dingo (C. lupus dingo), from Australia, and the domestic dog (C. lupus familiaris) are also considered subspecies of Canis lupus, although they themselves are not commonly referred to or thought of as "wolves".
Coyotes, jackals, and "wolves"
C. lupus is but one of many Canis species called "wolves", most of which are now extinct and little known to the general public. One of these, however, the dire wolf, has gained fame for the thousands of specimens found and displayed at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California.
The dire wolf is an example of the word "wolf" being applied loosely, i.e., to a canid which is not Canis lupus. Other examples include Canis simensis, which has undergone many popular name changes, as its intermediate morphology had caused some to think of it as a jackal or a fox; but current taxonomic and genetic consensus is reflected in its "official name", the Ethiopian wolf.
Canis species too small to attract the word "wolf" are called "coyotes" in the Americas and jackals elsewhere. Although these may not be more closely related to each other than they are to C. lupus, they are, as fellow Canis species, all more closely related to wolves and domestic dogs than they are to foxes, maned wolves, or other canids which do not belong to the Canis genus. The word "jackal" is applied to three distinct species of this group: Africa's side-striped (C. adustus), black-backed (C. mesomelas), and the golden (C. aureus) jackals, which can be found across northern Africa, southwestern and south-central Asia, and the Balkans.
While North America has only one small-sized species, the coyote (C. latrans), it has become very widespread indeed, moving into areas once occupied by wolves. They can be found across much of mainland Canada, in every state of the continental United States, all of Mexico except the Yucatán peninsula, and the Pacific and central areas of Central America, ranging as far south as northern Panama.
The name Canis means "dog" in Latin. The word canine comes from the adjective form, caninus ("of the dog"), from which the term canine tooth is also derived. The canine family has prominent canine teeth, used for killing their prey. The word canis is cognate to the Greek word "kūon" (Greek: Κύων) which means "dog."
- Canis Linnaeus 1758 in The Palaeobiology Database
- Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M., eds. (2005). "Genus Canis". Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. http://www.bucknell.edu/msw3/browse.asp?id=14000696.
- Harper, Douglas. "canine". Online Etymology Dictionary. http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=canine.