In scientific nomenclature, a synonym is a scientific name that applies to a taxon that goes by a different scientific name, although the term is used somewhat differently in the zoological code of nomenclature. For example, Linnaeus was the first to give a scientific name to the Norway spruce, which he called Pinus abies; this name is no longer in use: it is now a synonym of the current scientific name, Picea abies. Unlike synonyms in other contexts, in taxonomy a synonym is not interchangeable with the name of which it is a synonym. In taxonomy, synonyms have a different status. For any taxon with a particular circumscription and rank, only one scientific name is considered to be the correct one at any given time. A synonym cannot exist in isolation: it is always an alternative to a different scientific name. Given that the correct name of a taxon depends on the taxonomic viewpoint used a name, one taxonomist's synonym may be another taxonomist's correct name. Synonyms may arise whenever the same taxon is named more than once, independently.
They may arise when existing taxa are changed, as when two taxa are joined to become one, a species is moved to a different genus, a variety is moved to a different species, etc. Synonyms come about when the codes of nomenclature change, so that older names are no longer acceptable. To the general user of scientific names, in fields such as agriculture, ecology, general science, etc. A synonym is a name, used as the correct scientific name but, displaced by another scientific name, now regarded as correct, thus Oxford Dictionaries Online defines the term as "a taxonomic name which has the same application as another one, superseded and is no longer valid." In handbooks and general texts, it is useful to have synonyms mentioned as such after the current scientific name, so as to avoid confusion. For example, if the much advertised name change should go through and the scientific name of the fruit fly were changed to Sophophora melanogaster, it would be helpful if any mention of this name was accompanied by "".
Synonyms used in this way may not always meet the strict definitions of the term "synonym" in the formal rules of nomenclature which govern scientific names. Changes of scientific name have two causes: they may be taxonomic or nomenclatural. A name change may be caused by changes in the circumscription, position or rank of a taxon, representing a change in taxonomic, scientific insight. A name change may be due to purely nomenclatural reasons, that is, based on the rules of nomenclature. Speaking in general, name changes for nomenclatural reasons have become less frequent over time as the rules of nomenclature allow for names to be conserved, so as to promote stability of scientific names. In zoological nomenclature, codified in the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, synonyms are different scientific names of the same taxonomic rank that pertain to that same taxon. For example, a particular species could, over time, have had two or more species-rank names published for it, while the same is applicable at higher ranks such as genera, orders, etc.
In each case, the earliest published name is called the senior synonym, while the name is the junior synonym. In the case where two names for the same taxon have been published the valid name is selected accorded to the principle of the first reviser such that, for example, of the names Strix scandiaca and Strix noctua, both published by Linnaeus in the same work at the same date for the taxon now determined to be the snowy owl, the epithet scandiaca has been selected as the valid name, with noctua becoming the junior synonym. One basic principle of zoological nomenclature is that the earliest published name, the senior synonym, by default takes precedence in naming rights and therefore, unless other restrictions interfere, must be used for the taxon. However, junior synonyms are still important to document, because if the earliest name cannot be used the next available junior synonym must be used for the taxon. For other purposes, if a researcher is interested in consulting or compiling all known information regarding a taxon, some of this may well have been published under names now regarded as outdated and so it is again useful to know a list of historic synonyms which may have been used for a given current taxon name.
Objective synonyms refer to taxa with same rank. This may be species-group taxa of the same rank with the same type specimen, genus-group taxa of the same rank with the same type species or if their type species are themselves objective synonyms, of family-group taxa with the same type genus, etc. In the case of subjective synonyms, there is no such shared type, so the synonymy is open to taxonomic judgement, meaning that th
The ground squirrels are members of the squirrel family of rodents which live on or in the ground, rather than trees. The term is most used for the medium-sized ground squirrels, as the larger ones are more known as marmots or prairie dogs, while the smaller and less bushy-tailed ground squirrels tend to be known as chipmunks. Together, they make up the "marmot tribe" of squirrels and the large and ground squirrel subfamily Xerinae, containing six living genera. Well-known members of this Holarctic group are the marmots, including the American groundhog, the chipmunks, the susliks, the prairie dogs, they are variable in size and habitus, but most are remarkably able to rise up on their hind legs and stand erect comfortably for prolonged periods. They tend to be far more gregarious than other squirrels, many live in colonies with complex social structures. Most Marmotini are rather short-tailed and large squirrels, the alpine marmot is the largest living member of the Sciuridae, at 53–73 cm in length and weighing 5–8 kg.
The chipmunks of the genus Tamias spend time in trees. Closer to typical squirrels in other aspects, they are considered a tribe of their own; the ground squirrel is renowned for its tendency to rise up on its hind legs. It does this when it must see over tall grasses; the squirrel curls its paws flat against its chest and sends a screeching call to warn other family members about the presence of predators. Palaeosciurus from Europe is the oldest known ground squirrel species, it does not seem to be close to any of the two to three living lineages of Marmotini; the oldest fossils are from the Early Oligocene, more than 30 million years ago, but the genus persisted at least until the mid-Miocene, some 15 mya. It is not clear; the subtribes diverged in the early to mid-Oligocene, as primitive marmots and chipmunks are known from the Late Oligocene of North America. The fossil record of the "true" ground squirrels is less well known, beginning only in the mid-Miocene, when modern susliks and prairie dogs are known to have inhabited their present-day range already.
Whether the Marmotini dispersed between North America and Eurasia via "island-hopping" across the Bering Straits or the Greenland region—which both at that time were temperate habitat—and from which continent they dispersed to which, or if both continents brought forth distinct subtribes which spread to the other, is not known and would require more fossil material to be resolved. In any case, that the comprehensive fossil record of Europe—at the relevant time separated from Asia by the Turgai Sea—lacks ancient Marmotini except the indeterminate Palaeosciurus might be taken to indicate an East Asian or western North American origin with trans-Beringia dispersal is the more satisfying hypothesis of it; this is supported by the enigmatic Chinese genus Sciurotamias, which may be the most ancient living lineage of this group, or—if the chipmunks are not included here—close to the common ancestor of the Tamiini and the Marmotini sensu stricto. In any case, expansion of the Marmotini to Africa was prevented by competitive exclusion by their close relatives the Protoxerini and Xerini—the native terrestrial and palm squirrels of that continent—which must have evolved at the same time as the Marmotini did.
Open areas including rocky outcrops, fields and sparsely wooded hillsides. Ground squirrels live in grassy areas such as pastures, golf courses and parks. Ground squirrels are omnivorous, will not only eat a diet rich in fungi, nuts and seeds, but occasionally insects and other small animals, they are known to eat mice several times their size. Basal and incertae sedis genera Palaeosciurus Sciurotamias Subtribe Tamiina: chipmunks Eutamias Neotamias Nototamias TamiasSubtribe Marmotina: marmots Arctomyoides Miospermophilus Paenemarmota Palaearctomys Protospermophilus Marmota Ictidomys: Thirteen-lined ground squirrel and related speciesSubtribe Spermophilina: true ground squirrels Spermophilinus Ammospermophilus Cynomys Spermophilus Below is a cladogram of ground squirrels derived from maximum parsimony analysis. Squirrel Tree squirrel Richardson's ground squirrel Helgen, Kristofer M.. "Generic Revision in the Holarctic Ground Squirrel Genus Spermophilus". Journal of Mammalogy. 90: 270–305. Doi:10.1644/07-MAMM-A-309.1.
Archived from the original on 2011-10-22. Steppan, Scott J.. L. & Hoffmann, R. S.: "Nuclear DNA phylogeny of the squirrels and the evolution of arboreality from c-myc and RAG1". Mol. Phyl. Evol. 30: 703–719. Doi:10.1016/S1055-790300204-5 PDF fulltext Thorington, R. W. & Hoffmann, R. S.: Family Sciuridae. In: Mammal Species of the World—A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference: 754–818. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. About California Ground Squirrels
A lynx is any of the four species within the medium-sized wild cat genus Lynx. The name lynx originated in Middle English via Latin from the Greek word λύγξ, derived from the Indo-European root leuk- in reference to the luminescence of its reflective eyes. Two other cats that are sometimes called lynxes, the caracal and the jungle cat, are not members of the genus Lynx. Lynx have a short tail, characteristic tufts of black hair on the tips of their ears, padded paws for walking on snow and long whiskers on the face. Under their neck they have a ruff which has black bars resembling a bow tie, although this is not visible. Body colour varies from medium brown to goldish to beige-white, is marked with dark brown spots on the limbs. All species of lynx have white fur on their chests, bellies and on the insides of their legs, fur, an extension of the chest and belly fur; the lynx's colouring, fur length and paw size vary according to the climate in their range. In the Southwestern United States, they are short-haired, dark in colour and their paws are smaller and less padded.
As climates get colder and more northerly, lynx have progressively thicker fur, lighter colour, their paws are larger and more padded to adapt to the snow. Their paws may be larger than foot; the smallest species are the bobcat and the Canada lynx, while the largest is the Eurasian lynx, with considerable variations within species. The four living species of the genus Lynx are believed to have evolved from the "Issoire lynx", which lived in Europe and Africa during the late Pliocene to early Pleistocene; the Pliocene felid Felis rexroadensis from North America has been proposed as an earlier ancestor. Of the four lynx species, the Eurasian lynx is the largest in size, it is native to European, Central Asian, Siberian forests. While its conservation status has been classified as "least concern", populations of Eurasian lynx have been reduced or extirpated from Europe, where it is now being reintroduced; the Eurasian lynx is the third largest predator in Europe after the grey wolf. It is consuming about one or two kilograms of meat every day.
The Eurasian lynx is one of the widest-ranging. During the summer, the Eurasian lynx has a short, reddish or brown coat, replaced by a much thicker silver-grey to greyish-brown coat during winter; the lynx hunts by stalking and jumping on its prey, helped by the rugged, forested country in which it resides. A favorite prey for the lynx in its woodland habitat is roe deer, it will feed however on whatever animal appears easiest, as it is an opportunistic predator much like its cousins. The Canada lynx, or Canadian lynx, is a North American felid that ranges in forest and tundra regions across Canada and into Alaska, as well as some parts of the northern United States; the Canadian lynx ranged from Alaska across Canada and into many of the northern U. S. states. In the eastern states, it resided in the transition zone in which boreal coniferous forests yielded to deciduous forests. By 2010, after an 11-year effort, it had been reintroduced into Colorado, where it had become extirpated in the 1970s.
In 2000, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the Canada lynx a threatened species in the lower 48 states; the Canada lynx is swimmer. It has a thick coat and broad paws, is twice as effective as the bobcat at supporting its weight on the snow; the Canada lynx feeds exclusively on snowshoe hares. It will hunt medium-sized mammals and birds if hare numbers fall; the Iberian lynx is an endangered species native to the Iberian Peninsula in Southern Europe. It was the most endangered cat species in the world, but conservation efforts have changed its status from critical to endangered. According to the Portuguese conservation group SOS Lynx, if this species dies out, it will be the first feline extinction since the Smilodon 10,000 years ago; the species used to be classified as a subspecies of the Eurasian lynx, but is now considered a separate species. Both species occurred together in central Europe in the Pleistocene epoch, being separated by habitat choice; the Iberian lynx is believed to have evolved from Lynx issiodorensis.
In 2004, a Spanish government survey showed just two isolated breeding populations of Iberian lynx in southern Spain, totaling about 100 lynx. An agreement signed in 2003 by the Spanish Environment Ministry and the Andalusian Environment Council seeks to breed the Iberian lynx in captivity. Three Iberian lynx cubs were born as part of the Spanish program in 2005, at the Centro El Acebuche facility in Doñana National Park; as a result of the Spanish government program and efforts by others, the Iberian lynx "has recovered from the brink of extinction". The IUCN reassessed the species from "critically endangered" to "endangered" in 2015. A 2014 census of the species showed 327 animals in Andalucia in the "reintroduction areas" of Sierra Morena and Montes de Toledo, the Matachel Valley, the Guadiana Valley; the bobcat is a North American wild cat. With 12 recognized subspecies, the bobcat is common throughout southern Canada, the continental United
Foxes are small-to-medium-sized, omnivorous mammals belonging to several genera of the family Canidae. Foxes have a flattened skull, upright triangular ears, a pointed upturned snout, a long bushy tail. Twelve species belong to the monophyletic "true foxes" group of genus Vulpes. Another 25 current or extinct species are always or sometimes called foxes. Foxes live on every continent except Antarctica. By far the most common and widespread species of fox is the red fox with about 47 recognized subspecies; the global distribution of foxes, together with their widespread reputation for cunning, has contributed to their prominence in popular culture and folklore in many societies around the world. The hunting of foxes with packs of hounds, long an established pursuit in Europe in the British Isles, was exported by European settlers to various parts of the New World; the word fox comes from Old English. This in turn derives from Proto-Indo-European *puḱ-, meaning ’thick-haired. Male foxes are known as dogs, tods or reynards, females as vixens, young as cubs, pups, or kits, though the latter name is not to be confused with a distinct species called kit foxes.
Vixen is one of few words in modern English that retains the Middle English southern dialect "v" pronunciation instead of "f". A group of foxes is referred to leash, or earth. Within the Canidae, the results of DNA analysis shows several phylogenetic divisions: The fox-like canids, which include the kit fox, red fox, Cape fox, Arctic fox, fennec fox; the wolf-like canids, including the dog, gray wolf, red wolf, eastern wolf, golden jackal, Ethiopian wolf, black-backed jackal, side-striped jackal and African wild dog. The South American canids, including hoary fox, crab-eating fox and maned wolf. Various monotypic taxa, including the bat-eared fox, gray fox, raccoon dog. Foxes are smaller than some other members of the family Canidae such as wolves and jackals, while they may be larger than some within the family, such as Raccoon dogs. In the largest species, the red fox, males weigh on average between 4.1 and 8.7 kg, while the smallest species, the fennec fox, weighs just 0.7 to 1.6 kg. Fox-like features include a triangular face, pointed ears, an elongated rostrum, a bushy tail.
Foxes are digitigrade, thus, walk on their toes. Unlike most members of the family Canidae, foxes have retractable claws. Fox vibrissae, or whiskers, are black; the whiskers on the muzzle, mystaciae vibrissae, average 100–110 mm long, while the whiskers everywhere else on the head average to be shorter in length. Whiskers are on the forelimbs and average 40 mm long, pointing downward and backward. Other physical characteristics vary according to adaptive significance. Fox species differ in fur color and density. Coat colors range from pearly white to black and white to black flecked with white or grey on the underside. Fennec foxes, for example, have short fur to aid in keeping the body cool. Arctic foxes, on the other hand, have tiny ears and short limbs as well as thick, insulating fur, which aid in keeping the body warm. Red foxes, by contrast, have a typical auburn pelt, the tail ending with white marking. A fox's coat color and texture may vary due to the change in seasons. To get rid of the dense winter coat, foxes moult once a year around April.
Coat color may change as the individual ages. A fox's dentition, like all other canids, is I 3/3, C 1/1, PM 4/4, M 3/2 = 42. Foxes have pronounced carnassial pairs, characteristic of a carnivore; these pairs consist of the upper premolar and the lower first molar, work together to shear tough material like flesh. Foxes' canines are pronounced characteristic of a carnivore, are excellent in gripping prey. In the wild, the typical lifespan of a fox is one to three years, although individuals may live up to ten years. Unlike many canids, foxes are not always pack animals, they live in small family groups, but some are known to be solitary. Foxes are omnivores; the diet of foxes is made up of invertebrates such as insects, small vertebrates such as reptiles and birds, can include eggs and plants. Many species are generalist predators. Most species of fox consume around 1 kg of food every day. Foxes cache excess food, burying it for consumption under leaves, snow, or soil. Foxes tend to use a pouncing technique where they crouch down to camouflage themselves in the terrain using their hind legs, leap up with great force to land on top of their targeted prey.
Using their pronounced canine te
A chordate is an animal constituting the phylum Chordata. During some period of their life cycle, chordates possess a notochord, a dorsal nerve cord, pharyngeal slits, an endostyle, a post-anal tail: these five anatomical features define this phylum. Chordates are bilaterally symmetric; the Chordata and Ambulacraria together form the superphylum Deuterostomia. Chordates are divided into three subphyla: Vertebrata. There are extinct taxa such as the Vetulicolia. Hemichordata has been presented as a fourth chordate subphylum, but now is treated as a separate phylum: hemichordates and Echinodermata form the Ambulacraria, the sister phylum of the Chordates. Of the more than 65,000 living species of chordates, about half are bony fish that are members of the superclass Osteichthyes. Chordate fossils have been found from as early as the Cambrian explosion, 541 million years ago. Cladistically, vertebrates - chordates with the notochord replaced by a vertebral column during development - are considered to be a subgroup of the clade Craniata, which consists of chordates with a skull.
The Craniata and Tunicata compose the clade Olfactores. Chordates form a phylum of animals that are defined by having at some stage in their lives all of the following anatomical features: A notochord, a stiff rod of cartilage that extends along the inside of the body. Among the vertebrate sub-group of chordates the notochord develops into the spine, in wholly aquatic species this helps the animal to swim by flexing its tail. A dorsal neural tube. In fish and other vertebrates, this develops into the spinal cord, the main communications trunk of the nervous system. Pharyngeal slits; the pharynx is the part of the throat behind the mouth. In fish, the slits are modified to form gills, but in some other chordates they are part of a filter-feeding system that extracts particles of food from the water in which the animals live. Post-anal tail. A muscular tail that extends backwards behind the anus. An endostyle; this is a groove in the ventral wall of the pharynx. In filter-feeding species it produces mucus to gather food particles, which helps in transporting food to the esophagus.
It stores iodine, may be a precursor of the vertebrate thyroid gland. There are soft constraints that separate chordates from certain other biological lineages, but are not part of the formal definition: All chordates are deuterostomes; this means. All chordates are based on a bilateral body plan. All chordates are coelomates, have a fluid filled body cavity called a coelom with a complete lining called peritoneum derived from mesoderm; the following schema is from the third edition of Vertebrate Palaeontology. The invertebrate chordate classes are from Fishes of the World. While it is structured so as to reflect evolutionary relationships, it retains the traditional ranks used in Linnaean taxonomy. Phylum Chordata †Vetulicolia? Subphylum Cephalochordata – Class Leptocardii Clade Olfactores Subphylum Tunicata – Class Ascidiacea Class Thaliacea Class Appendicularia Class Sorberacea Subphylum Vertebrata Infraphylum incertae sedis Cyclostomata Superclass'Agnatha' paraphyletic Class Myxini Class Petromyzontida or Hyperoartia Class †Conodonta Class †Myllokunmingiida Class †Pteraspidomorphi Class †Thelodonti Class †Anaspida Class †Cephalaspidomorphi Infraphylum Gnathostomata Class †Placodermi Class Chondrichthyes Class †Acanthodii Superclass Osteichthyes Class Actinopterygii Class Sarcopterygii Superclass Tetrapoda Class Amphibia Class Sauropsida Class Synapsida Craniates, one of the three subdivisions of chordates, all have distinct skulls.
They include the hagfish. Michael J. Benton commented that "craniates are characterized by their heads, just as chordates, or all deuterostomes, are by their tails". Most craniates are vertebrates; these consist of a series of bony or cartilaginous cylindrical vertebrae with neural arches that protect the spinal cord, with projections that link the vertebrae. However hagfish have incomplete braincases and no vertebrae, are therefore not regarded as vertebrates, but as members of the craniates, the group from which vertebrates are thought to have evolved; however the cladistic exclusion of hagfish from the vertebrates is controversial, as they ma
The domestic dog is a member of the genus Canis, which forms part of the wolf-like canids, is the most abundant terrestrial carnivore. The dog and the extant gray wolf are sister taxa as modern wolves are not related to the wolves that were first domesticated, which implies that the direct ancestor of the dog is extinct; the dog was the first species to be domesticated and has been selectively bred over millennia for various behaviors, sensory capabilities, physical attributes. Their long association with humans has led dogs to be uniquely attuned to human behavior and they are able to thrive on a starch-rich diet that would be inadequate for other canid species. Dogs vary in shape and colors, they perform many roles for humans, such as hunting, pulling loads, assisting police and military, companionship and, more aiding disabled people and therapeutic roles. This influence on human society has given them the sobriquet of "man's best friend"; the term dog is applied both to the species as a whole, any adult male member of the same.
An adult female is a bitch. An adult male capable of reproduction is a stud. An adult female capable of reproduction is brood mother. Immature males or females are puppies. A group of pups from the same gestation period is called a litter; the father of a litter is a sire. It is possible for one litter to have multiple sires; the mother of a litter is a dam. A group of any three or more adults is a pack. In 1999, a study of mitochondrial DNA indicated that the domestic dog may have originated from multiple grey wolf populations, with the dingo and New Guinea singing dog "breeds" having developed at a time when human populations were more isolated from each other. In the third edition of Mammal Species of the World published in 2005, the mammalogist W. Christopher Wozencraft listed under the wolf Canis lupus its wild subspecies, proposed two additional subspecies: "familiaris Linneaus, 1758 " and "dingo Meyer, 1793 ". Wozencraft included hallstromi – the New Guinea singing dog – as a taxonomic synonym for the dingo.
Wozencraft referred to the mDNA study as one of the guides in forming his decision. The inclusion of familiaris and dingo under a "domestic dog" clade has been noted by other mammalogists; this classification by Wozencraft is debated among zoologists. The origin of the domestic dog includes the dog's evolutionary divergence from the wolf, its domestication, its development into dog types and dog breeds; the dog is a member of the genus Canis, which forms part of the wolf-like canids, was the first species and the only large carnivore to have been domesticated. The dog and the extant gray wolf are sister taxa, as modern wolves are not related to the population of wolves, first domesticated; the genetic divergence between dogs and wolves occurred between 40,000–20,000 years ago, just before or during the Last Glacial Maximum. This timespan represents the upper time-limit for the commencement of domestication because it is the time of divergence and not the time of domestication, which occurred later.
The domestication of animals commenced over 15,000 years ago, beginning with the grey wolf by nomadic hunter-gatherers. The archaeological record and genetic analysis show the remains of the Bonn–Oberkassel dog buried beside humans 14,200 years ago to be the first undisputed dog, with disputed remains occurring 36,000 years ago, it was not until 11,000 years ago that people living in the Near East entered into relationships with wild populations of aurochs, boar and goats. Where the domestication of the dog took place remains debated, with the most plausible proposals spanning Western Europe, Central Asia and East Asia; this has been made more complicated by the recent proposal that an initial wolf population split into East and West Eurasian groups. These two groups, before going extinct, were domesticated independently into two distinct dog populations between 14,000 and 6,400 years ago; the Western Eurasian dog population was and replaced by East Asian dogs introduced by humans at least 6,400 years ago.
This proposal is debated. Domestic dogs have been selectively bred for millennia for various behaviors, sensory capabilities, physical attributes. Modern dog breeds show more variation in size and behavior than any other domestic animal. Dogs are predators and scavengers, like many other predatory mammals, the dog has powerful muscles, fused wrist bones, a cardiovascular system that supports both sprinting and endurance, teeth for catching and tearing. Dogs are variable in height and weight; the smallest known adult dog was a Yorkshire Terrier, that stood only 6.3 cm at the shoulder, 9.5 cm in length along the head-and-body, weighed only 113 grams. The largest known dog was an English Mastiff which weighed 155.6 kg and was 250 cm from the snout to the tail. The tallest dog is a Great Dane; the dog's senses include vision, sense of smell, sense of taste and sensitivity to the earth's magnetic field. Another study suggested; the coats of domestic dogs are of two varieties: "double" being common with dogs originating from colder climates, made up of a coarse guard hair and a soft down hair, or "single", with the topcoat only.
Breeds may have stripe, or "star" of white fur on their chest or underside. Regarding coat appearance or h
The coyote, Canis latrans, is a canine native to North America. It is smaller than its close relative, the gray wolf, smaller than the related eastern wolf and red wolf, it fills much of the same ecological niche as the golden jackal does in Eurasia, though it is larger and more predatory, is sometimes called the American jackal by zoologists. The coyote is listed as least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to its wide distribution and abundance throughout North America, southwards through Mexico, into Central America; the species is able to adapt to and expand into environments modified by humans. It is enlarging its range, with coyotes moving into urban areas in the Eastern U. S. and was sighted in eastern Panama for the first time in 2013. As of 2005, 19 coyote subspecies are recognized; the average male weighs the average female 7 to 18 kg. Their fur color is predominantly light gray and red or fulvous interspersed with black and white, though it varies somewhat with geography.
It is flexible in social organization, living either in a family unit or in loosely knit packs of unrelated individuals. It has a varied diet consisting of animal meat, including deer, hares, birds, amphibians and invertebrates, though it may eat fruits and vegetables on occasion, its characteristic vocalization is a howl made by solitary individuals. Humans are the coyote's greatest threat, followed by gray wolves. In spite of this, coyotes sometimes mate with gray, eastern, or red wolves, producing "coywolf" hybrids. In the northeastern United States and eastern Canada, the eastern coyote is the result of various historical and recent matings with various types of wolves. Genetic studies show that most North American wolves contain some level of coyote DNA; the coyote is a prominent character in Native American folklore in the Southwestern United States and Mexico depicted as a trickster that alternately assumes the form of an actual coyote or a man. As with other trickster figures, the coyote uses deception and humor to rebel against social conventions.
The animal was respected in Mesoamerican cosmology as a symbol of military might. After the European colonization of the Americas, it was reviled in Anglo-American culture as a cowardly and untrustworthy animal. Unlike wolves, which have undergone an improvement of their public image, attitudes towards the coyote remain negative. Coyote males average 8 to 20 kg in weight, while females average 7 to 18 kg, though size varies geographically. Northern subspecies, which average 18 kg, tend to grow larger than the southern subspecies of Mexico, which average 11.5 kg. Body length ranges on average from 1.0 to 1.35 m, tail length 40 cm, with females being shorter in both body length and height. The largest coyote on record was a male killed near Afton, Wyoming, on November 19, 1937, which measured 1.5 m from nose to tail, weighed 34 kg. Scent glands are a bluish-black color; the color and texture of the coyote's fur varies somewhat geographically. The hair's predominant color is light gray and red or fulvous, interspersed around the body with black and white.
Coyotes living at high elevations tend to have more black and gray shades than their desert-dwelling counterparts, which are more fulvous or whitish-gray. The coyote's fur consists of soft underfur and long, coarse guard hairs; the fur of northern subspecies is longer and denser than in southern forms, with the fur of some Mexican and Central American forms being hispid. Adult coyotes have a sable coat color, dark neonatal coat color, bushy tail with an active supracaudal gland, a white facial mask. Albinism is rare in coyotes; the coyote is smaller than the gray wolf, but has longer ears and a larger braincase, as well as a thinner frame and muzzle. The scent glands are the same color, its fur color variation is much less varied than that of a wolf. The coyote carries its tail downwards when running or walking, rather than horizontally as the wolf does. Coyote tracks can be distinguished from those of dogs by less rounded shape. Unlike dogs, the upper canines of coyotes extend past the mental foramina.
At the time of the European colonization of the Americas, coyotes were confined to open plains and arid regions of the western half of the continent. In early post-Columbian historical records, distinguishing between coyotes and wolves is difficult. One record from 1750 in Kaskaskia, written by a local priest, noted that the "wolves" encountered there were smaller and less daring than European wolves. Another account from the early 1800s in Edwards County mentioned wolves howling at night, though these were coyotes; this species was encountered several times during the Lewis and Clark Expedition, though it was well known to European traders on the upper Missouri. Lewis, writing on 5 May 1805, in northeastern Montana, described the coyote in these terms: The small woolf or burrowing dog of the prairies are the inhabitants invariably of the open plains.