Tetrapod Zoology

Tet Zoo picture of the day # 13


Today’s image shows the ever-interesting Maned wolf, the so-called ‘fox on stilts’ Chrysocyon brachyurus, kindly supplied by Anne-Marie of Pondering Pikaia. Anne-Marie studies these animals for her honors thesis. Maned wolves are well known for being predators of large rodents (like pacas) and similar-sized vertebrate prey, but they consume a surprising amount of plant material, and are particularly fond of the ‘fruta da lobo’ (hence its name). Often regarded as specialised for the Argentinean pampas, fossils show that they evolved in North America – they are just one of a whole bunch of wolf-like canids that invaded South America, all of which, excepting the Maned wolf, later became extinct (and, yes, the Maned wolf is close kin to Canis and its relatives: it is not a fox). They are endangered, with a wild population estimated at 1500-2000, but one interesting speculation is that they may benefit from deforestation and the resultant spread of poor-quality grasslands… If you’ve never seen a live one, do so!

And now for something completely different: what do you all think so far of the whole ‘picture of the day’ (POTD from hereon, nod to Mike P. Taylor) thing? Some regulars are unhappy that I am posting crappy little short posts, rather than the long essay-type ones. Fact is.. what do you want: POTD or nothing? As I said at the start, the POTD posts will appear every day, but I simply cannot – unfortunately – produce ‘proper’ posts at any frequency exceeding one every 3-4 days or so (and even that is difficult some weeks). And don’t forget that I published four posts on a single day last week, so be fair!


  1. #1 Dunkleosteus
    June 7, 2007

    And now for something completely different: what do you all think so far of the whole ‘picture of the day’ (POTD from hereon, nod to Mike P. Taylor) thing?

    Please keep posting them. These POTDs are good addition for us zoologically challenged. There must be vast amount of small bits and pieces of interesting facts that are best explained in this form.

  2. #2 Dr Vector
    June 7, 2007

    Let’s put it this way: if you stop producing PTOD, this fish gets it!

    Crap, I forgot that you only care about tetrapods.

    Well, anyway: Long live PTOD!

  3. #3 Steve Bodio
    June 7, 2007

    Short posts are a lot better than nothing!

    In a book called Out of Noah’s Ark– late 50’s – early 60’s– an author named Herbert Wendt postulated a cryptid of the maned wolf type but larger and darker– I think. Don’t have the ref here– does anyone know?

  4. #4 John Hopkin
    June 7, 2007

    I vote for the POTD over nothing. Please keep ’em coming, Darren.

  5. #5 Laelaps
    June 7, 2007

    I actually got a chance to see a pair of maned wolves at the National Zoo a few months ago (pictures of one, among other zoo inhabitants, here; most visitors didn’t know quite what to make of them, and I heard more than one parent say something like “Look at the big scary wolf! It’s gonna get ya” to an impressionable youngster, ugh.

    And as far as picture of the day, I say keep it up! There’s plenty of great stuff out there, but not enough time to write massive blog posts about them all, so it’s good to obtain a new bite-sized bit of information and see an illustration every day.

  6. #6 Chris wemmer
    June 7, 2007

    Keep the pictures coming, and get in the essays when you can.
    BTW, and back to today’s pic — maned wolf and paca distributions overlap only narrowly–smaller rodents seem to make up the majority of the maned wolf’s diet in central Brazil, but paca-sized prey, i.e., armadillos are taken too (ref: Redford and Eisenberg, 1992. Mammals of the Neotropics, Vol 2).

  7. #7 John H
    June 8, 2007

    POTD please, I am happy to read shorter blurbs, even though the long ones are consistently of high quality.

  8. #8 Allen Hazen
    June 8, 2007

    I’ve been enjoying the POTD (more so the ones with animals in them instead of bookshelves (grin!)) and short comments– my only worry is that getting even a minimal post up every day will make it harder for you to find time for your bigger, footnoted, essays which I REALLY REALLY like!

    (Vague memory– wasn’t there once a canid species on the Falklands, similar to the Maned Wolf? and if there was, is there a plausible story about how it got there?)

  9. #9 Lars
    June 8, 2007

    I’m quite happy to have the POTD, Darren, rather than nothing. Even though they take forever to download, they’re informative.

    Incidentally, what is that Anolis at the top of the page doing?

  10. #10 Marcel
    June 8, 2007

    I like the “POTD” thing. No one can expect that you produce long articles every day and i thing the small posts shows that the blog is “alive”. Keep on posting POTDs please!

    Best wishes


  11. #11 Dave Hughes
    June 8, 2007

    Personally, I’m amazed and impressed that you manage to produce the long essay-type posts as often as you do. I do a lot of scientific writing myself so I can appreciate how much effort it must take to put them together. Picture of the Day is fine by me, a little snippet of something unfamiliar or thought-provoking is a great way to fill in the gaps.

  12. #12 Dave Hone
    June 8, 2007

    Well obviously I like them. Its nice to see odd fossils and old favourites (I am a real fan of the maned wolf, beautiful animals). As an avid reader its nice to see things ticking over and the short posts give me a bit of food for thought and an opportunity to look at interesting things that otherwise you would not get a chance to write about.

    My one suggestion is that you could keep the POTD to days where there is no ‘main post’, or perhaps give yourself the weekends off. This might make you life a bit easier and save you having to do one every day. It would also keep the big posts on the front page a bit longer as they might fly off the bottom after a week of images.

    Still, I think its doing a good job for now.

  13. #13 JW Tan
    June 8, 2007

    I enjoy the longer posts more, but I’ll take as much zoology as I can get!

    PotD is a good idea, however. There’s a lot more out there than you could cover in longer posts, and it’s worth reminding readers of that.

  14. #14 Sordes
    June 8, 2007

    I think it is much better than nothing, and you see that it can cause a lot of new comments and discussion anyway, as well as interesting new information. But perhaps you could use some more odd motives, perhaps nearly unknown bizarre animals and fossils from museums or collections and stuff like this. Things which cause comments like “Wow, I even didnīt know this actually exist!”.

  15. #15 Darren Naish
    June 8, 2007

    Many thanks to all for their comments – thoughts gratefully received. My primary aim has obviously been to post at least _something_ every day, so I think I will follow Dave Hone’s advice and not bother with POTD on days when a longer post is published.

    On maned wolves eating pacas – whoops, I meant maras. The maned wolf-like canid with a longer, dark coat that Steve Bodio is referring to is the Andean or Hagenbeck wolf Dasycyon hagenbecki, known from a skin recovered in 1927, and an allegedly Chrysocyon-like skull was later referred to it. Some people later accepted it as a new, valid but poorly known large mammal, but DNA analysis of the skin showed that it came from a domestic dog. The skull? It is lost. Bugger.

    As for the extinct Falkland Islands canid, this is the always controversial Falkland Island fox or Warrah Dusicyon antarcticus, which I mentioned here and must blog on some time. Views on its origin and history are interesting.

  16. #16 Sordes
    June 8, 2007

    The book from Wendt is really great, one of my very first books which deals with cryptozoology. I have the original german version, and I still love this book. There is a lot of information about many animals I have seen nowhere else, and many highly interesting reproductions and also some originals of many animals from historical sources, for example the “mayan mastodon” or rock art with proposed lybitheres. This book deals mainly with the history of the discovery of species, for example lungfish or gorillas, but also with several mythical beasts. This book is a real must-have, even if some things are today known to be a little bit different.
    A very interesting note is the mention of an unknown big cat from South America, which was encountered by Columbus, and said to be neither a jaguar nor a puma. If your interested in this, I can search for the original information.
    BTW, in Karl Shukers “Mysterious World” is a photo of the Andean Wolfīs skin.
    Just a further idea about the andean wolf. If it was shown to be a dog, couldnīt it hypothetically be a south american form of Canis lupus, which adapted to the new environment?

  17. #17 cfrost
    June 8, 2007

    Are you kidding? Definitely keep the POTDs coming!

    Then, at the opposite end of the tall and lanky/short and squat spectrum, South America also hosts the cool little bush dog (Speothos venaticus).

  18. #18 Michael P. Taylor
    June 8, 2007

    But, Darren, if you only post these on days when there is no “proper” post, it won’t be Picture Of The Day any more. It’s be Picture Of The Every Now And Then, or POTENAT for short. Mind you, Potenat would be a not bad name for a Transformer.

    (And, Matt, what the heck is a PTOD?)

  19. #19 Dave Hone
    June 8, 2007

    Or it could be Picture Of The Day Except When There IS A Long Post which goes by the catchy acronym of POTDEWHTIALP.

  20. #20 Dr Vector
    June 8, 2007

    (And, Matt, what the heck is a PTOD?)

    Uh, Post That Opens Daily?

    Post Tetrapods Once Daily?

    Ah, here we go: Post Tetrapods Or Die!

    Darren, ‘Picture of the day’ can become ‘post of the day’, and then you’re off the hook for posting pictures on days when you post minigraphs. (Modification of monographs, of course. Yes, it’s mine. Why, thank you, I thought so too.)

  21. #21 Ranji
    June 9, 2007

    I’m curious as to why Darren is so definitive in declaring maned wolves to be most closely allied with Canis .

    Bardeleben C, Moore RL, Wayne RK. 2005. A molecular phylogeny of the Canidae based on six nuclear loci. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 37(3):815-31

  22. #22 Darren Naish
    June 9, 2007

    Ranji wrote..

    I’m curious as to why Darren is so definitive in declaring maned wolves to be most closely allied with Canis .

    I said ‘the Maned wolf is close kin to Canis and its relatives: it is not a fox’, which doesn’t seem too ‘definitive’ to me. I suppose the phrase ‘Canis and its relatives’ could be interpreted in several ways: sorry, I meant it in its broadest sense, given that all the phylogenies I’m aware of group the Maned wolf in Canini and not Vulpini. Berta (1987) found Chrysocyon and Canis to be each other’s closest relatives, though more recent studies have grouped Chrysocyon closer to Cerdocyon and often to Speothos.

    Ref – –

    Berta, A. 1987. Origin, diversification, and zoogeography of the South American Canidae. Fieldiana: Zoology 39, 455-471.

  23. #23 Hai~Ren
    June 10, 2007

    Carry on with these POTDs, I say! Helps me get my daily Tetrapod Zoology fix while I cower in a corner, shivering in anticipation of your next proper update… =D

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.