What are the distinct characteristics of a Himalayan wolf?


Quick Answer

The Himalayan wolf is a type of wolf found in India, Nepal, China and the Himalayas. It is characterized by distinctive sinuses, a longer-than-average muzzle, light tan or gray coloring, and a special layer of woolly fur that is not found in other wolves.

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Full Answer

In 2009, these wolves were nominated as a separate species, Canis himalayensis, distinct from the Tibetan wolf with which they were previously classified. This change in the classification is based on genetic and physical differences.

Previously the Himalayan wolf was considered to be a part of the Tibetan wolf subspecies, or Canis lupis chanco. Mitochondrial evidence suggest that Himalayan wolves are not related to Tibetan wolves because their DNA has none of the markers associated with dogs, who are descended from other wolf species. This would suggest that the Himalayan wolves split off from other wolf species between 800,000 and 1.5 million years ago, which is when the Tibetan Plateau separated from the rest of the continent. However, some scientists believe that the mitochondrial evidence is too inconclusive to place Himalayan wolves in another species.

Even before the existence of DNA testing, some taxonomists classified the Himalayan wolf as a separate species based on its physical characteristics.

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