• Wolves and Dogs
    Wolves are not wild dogs! Although wolves and dogs share a common ancestor and many characteristics, they are classified as different animals: Canis lupus (the gray wolf) and Canis lupus familiaris (the domestic dog). Wolves and dogs each have many subspecies or breeds.
    The most important difference between wolves and dogs is that wolves are wild. Kathryn Lord, an evolutionary biologist, says “If you want to socialize a dog with a human or a horse, all you need is 90 minutes to introduce them between the ages of four and eight weeks. After that, a dog will not be afraid of humans or whatever else you introduced. But with a wolf pup, achieving even close to the same fear reduction requires 24-hour contact starting before age three weeks, and even then you won’t get the same attachment or lack of fear.”
    Wolves and dogs also have different physical characteristics. Wolves have larger heads, pointier snouts, thicker teeth, and longer legs.

    Rigid Pack Hierarchy
    The structure of wolf packs is varied and fluid. Older models of pack structure focused on set behavior patterns, such as “dominant” and “submissive,” and organized pack members into linear hierarchies. These models are considered outdated.
    Today, most wildlife biologists recognize that a wolf pack’s structure and relationships change over the years, and even over the seasons. 
    New models of wolf pack behavior recognize this natural fluctuation. Scientists describe packs more in terms of family units. They may still refer to the leading pair as “alphas,” but they now understand the behavior of pack members is less rigid than the older models suggest. 
    Howling at the Moon
    Wolves do not howl at the moon! They howl to communicate with each other. 
    Howling is the most direct way of communicating across long distances, and is especially important in areas where wolf territories are vast. A howl can communicate things like a wolf’s location, warnings about predators, and the position of prey.
    Wolves howl for more reasons than we'll ever know. They howl day or night—not just when there is a full moon. They even have daily howling choruses with their own packs, which can be one way of strengthening member bonds. 
    The myth that wolves howl at the moon may stem from the fact that ancient people probably ventured outside more often when there was a full moon, since it offers more light for navigating in the dark. Perhaps people simply were more aware of wolf howls on nights will full moons.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    alpha Noun

    animal having the highest rank in a group.

    ancestor Noun

    organism from whom one is descended.

    ancient Adjective

    very old.

    behavior Noun

    anything an organism does involving action or response to stimulation.

    breed Noun

    group of animals within a species, usually specifically bred and maintained for certain characteristics by humans.

    characteristic Adjective

    particular feature of an organism.

    communicate Verb

    to exchange knowledge, thoughts, or feelings.

    distinct Adjective

    unique or identifiable.

    dominant Adjective

    main or most important.

    evolutionary biologist Noun

    person who studies the origin and adaptations of species.

    family Noun

    group of organisms that come from the same ancestors and share similar characteristics. Family is also a classification in chemistry and math.

    Encyclopedic Entry: family
    fluid Adjective

    able to change and adapt.

    full moon Noun

    phase of the Moon when its entire disc is visible.

    hierarchy Noun

    social system that organizes by ranks or titles, or the highest-ranking leaders of this group.

    howl Noun

    long, loud, mournful cry.

    linear Adjective

    having to do with straight lines.

    location Noun

    position of a particular point on the surface of the Earth.

    Encyclopedic Entry: location
    model Noun

    standard definition of an object, organism, or process.

    myth Noun

    legend or traditional story.

    organize Verb

    to coordinate and give structure to.

    outdated Adjective

    no longer useful.

    pack Noun

    group of animals, usually arranged in a family-like structure.

    physical characteristic Noun

    physical feature of an organism or object.

    predator Noun

    animal that hunts other animals for food.

    prey Noun

    animal that is hunted and eaten by other animals.

    reduction Noun


    require Verb

    to need.

    rigid Adjective


    snare drum Noun

    percussion instrument with snares that create a rattling sound.

    socialize Verb

    to make an animal familiar and comfortable for life with others.

    submissive Adjective


    subspecies Noun

    (subsp.) group of organisms within a single species, often distinguished by geographic isolation.

    territory Noun

    land an animal, human, or government protects from intruders.

    variation Noun


    warn Verb

    to give notice of danger.

    wildlife biologist Noun

    person who studies animals in their native habitats.