The genus Canis includes 6 species of extant New and Old world canids: the side-striped jackal, golden jackal, black-backed jackal, grey wolf, Ethiopian wolf, and the coyote. The latin ‘canis’ means dog. Members of this genus are highly diverse and numerous subspecies of extinct and extant species abound. While there are large differences in morphology, all members of this genus have long limbs relative to their head and body length, elongated snouts, well-developed canines, digitigrade locomotion, and non-retractile claws. Wolves typically hunt large prey such as ungulates, coyotes prey upon smaller mammals such as rodents and rabbits and consume a large quantity of vegetative matter, and jackals tend to scavenge carrion.
Species vs. Subspecies?
There is much contention as to the correct taxonomic classification of many canids, especially ‘wolves’. The original ‘wolf’ refers to the Eurasian grey wolf; the current taxonomic authority (Mammal Species of the World: a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, Wilson and Reeder 2005) lists domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris), red wolves (Canis lupus rufus), and dingoes (Canis lupus dingo) as subspecies of the grey wolf (Canis lupus lupus). It is likely that the taxonomic classification of many canids will continue to change as scientists come up with more genetic evidence to separate various species.