One Wolf Species or Two in North America?

According to an article in the 01 June 2023 issue of Journal of American Mammalogy, the split of gray wolf into two North American species was very stringy. How stringy? Pretty darn stringy.

Article is

Morphological relationships among populations support a single taxonomic unit for the North American Gray Wolf 

Post author



  • Vladimir Dinets

    Looks like absolutely useless waste of time to me. Not just because they left out the most diverse extant subspecies of C. lupus (the Mexican wolf), but also because the entire approach is (1) obsolete in the age of molecular studies and (2) methodologically flawed. What they are trying to demonstrate is that C. lycaon is conspecific with C. lupus – but this is not a question you can answer using skull comparisons between a highly localized taxon and a highly variable one. Not to mention multiple other issues, like the paper having zero novelty and being mostly filled with discussions of older literature, lousy geographical divisions (some overlapping, one skull apparently coming from open ocean), etc.

    • Vladimir Dinets

      It is a widespread dogma in North American zoology that you can publish any BS as long as there’s a lot of fancy statistics and you mention “statistical significance” at least ten times. In reality, statistical significance is used in a completely wrong way in North American science , and statistics are neither a requirement for all types of papers nor something that makes a paper “scientific”. But it looks like at least 2 generations of scientists will have to die off for things to improve.

  • KyleFinn

    To compare the study with ones done on Puma concolor, they also show extensive morphological variation in cranial measurements, which lead to over 40 some odd subspecies in the early days of mammalogy subspecies assignments. Genetic analysis though shows a single species with 3 subspecies. Why should northern wolves (excluding red and Mexican wolves) be multiple species? It seems the more advance genetic analysis even shows them as hybrids between adjacent populations or with coyotes. I feel that molecular biologists are too quick to split into different species, one team’s analysis shows multiple species, but another teams finds a single species with different distinct clades (ie subspecies). My mole-rats are a good example as well, some of the recognized species may be subspecies, while other subspecies may be full species all depending on how you analyze the data and what samples you have. ANd then reptile taxonomy is even more picky!

    • KyleFinn

      I do agree that the study should have combined morphology and genetic analysis instead of just one or the other.

Leave a Reply