canid

The skull of Nyctereutes lockwoodi as seen from the side and above. From Geraads et al, 2010. In 2006 paleoanthropologists working in Ethiopia made a spectacular announcement - they had found the well-preserved remains of a juvenile Australopithecus afarensis, one of our prehistoric hominin relatives. Quickly dubbed "Lucy's baby" this 3.4 million year old specimen graced the cover of Nature and numerous news reports, yet its description represents only a fraction of the paleontological work being done in the area. Many other fossil animals have been found along the banks of the Awash, too,…
An African wild dog (Lycaon pictus, left) compared to a spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta, right). Both photographed at the Bronx Zoo. It never fails. Whenever I visit a zoo's African wild dog exhibit someone inevitably asks "Are those hyenas?", and when I visit spotted hyena enclosures I often hear the question "Are those dogs?" These carnivores, known to scientists as Lycaon pictus and Crocuta crocuta (respectively), are only distant cousins, but the vague similarities shared between them often cause people to confuse one with the other. There are a few quick and dirty ways to tell them apart…
Sometimes there is no news. Sometimes we have to tell you about dog sweaters. Today we will tell you about the Raccoon Dog. The Raccoon Dog is a member of the canid family but is not a true dog. It is called a raccoon dog because it bears a superficial resemblance to a raccoon. It is a basal genus of Canidae, meaning it branched off into it's own adorable subgroup earlier than others. It is believed that the Racoon Dog family Nyctereutes has been evolutionarily distinct for seven to ten million years. Like most dogs, the Raccoon Dog is omnivorous, but is unique in the range of different…
Wolves are among my favorite carnivores, but they're often shy even in zoo settings, making them difficult to photograph. During my visit to the National Zoo this past spring, however, this Mexican Wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) came down to get a drink from the pool at the edge of the enclosure, allowing me to snap a few photos. Not everyone likes wolves as much as I do, though, and the Mexican Wolf is currently critically endangered with only about 200 individuals left in the wild. As with other wolves, this subspecies (ranging from Mexico across the southwestern U.S. and as far north as…
I have never heard sounds come out of a dog like the kind that I've heard out of a pack of excited African Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus), the individual pictured above being a member of a large group kept at the WCS-run Bronx Zoo. While their species once ranged over 39 countries and their numbers were estimated as being as high as 500,000, today there are only 3,000-6,000 individuals left in a handful of countries, pressure from predator competition, disease, and killing by farmers/livestock owners make life very hard for these unique dogs. Indeed, they differ from all other known canids in…