Very few people actually know that wolves and a wolverines are not related to each other; and that's isn't quite surprising as identity crisis - arising from similarity in names, are not rare in kingdom Animalia. One of the classic examples of such identity crisis is the Thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus) aka the Tasmanian tiger or Tasmanian wolf. Even today - decades after it went extinct, people tend to get confused when trying to picture this animal. While some people believe that the thylacine was a species of tiger (courtesy the name Tasmanian tiger), others are of the opinion that it was a species of wolf (courtesy the name Tasmanian wolf) native to Tasmania. The fact however, remains that the Tasmanian tiger was neither a tiger nor a wolf, but was a carnivorous marsupial which inhabited the continent of Australia at one point of time. Come today, the wolverine is facing a similar identity crisis.
Is the Wolverine Related to Wolf Biologically?
Wolverine (Gulo golo) - also referred to as the gulon or skunk bear, is often mistaken to be a wolf species owing to the similarity in name. As the habitat of a wolverine spans across the cold regions of north which are not quite suitable for human inhabitation, not much is known about this species - at least by the layman. On the contrary, the Gray wolf (Canis lupus) is quite popular member of kingdom Animalia, with its geographical range spanning across the northern hemisphere. Even though both are carnivorous in nature - notorious for their ferocity, wolf and wolverine are two different species belong to different families of kingdom Animalia - and have nothing in common, but for their names which sound slightly similar.
What is the Difference Between a Wolverine and a Wolf?
Even though they belong to two separate families of kingdom Animalia, both the Gray wolf and the wolverine boast of being the largest extant members of their respective families. (Wolverine though is the largest land-dwelling species of the Mustelidae family.) However, this is more of a coincidence than a similarity. On the contrary, the differences between these two species exist in plenty, and become all the more obvious as you look into various attributes of their lives.
- The wolverine belongs to the Mustelidae family of carnivorous mammals; other members of which are otters, badgers, polecats, ferrets, etc.
- Wolverines are typically characterized by their rounded heads, short ears and short legs.
- A full-grown wolverine can measure somewhere around 25-34 inches in terms of length, 7-10 inches in terms of height and weigh anywhere between 22-55 lbs.
- Wolverines are found in isolated regions of Alaska, northern Canada, Siberia, Scandinavia, Russia, northern China and Mongolia.
- Wolverines are known to lead a solitary life, and resort to scavenging than hunting on their own. They are also known to feed on carrion left behind by wolves. Territorial disputes are also quite common among wolverines, with individuals not hesitating to take on each other when they cross over into each other territory.
- The Gray wolf belongs to the Canidae family of carnivorous and omnivorous mammals; other members of which foxes, jackals, coyotes, etc.
- Wolves are typically characterized by their tall stature, long legs and pricked ears.
- Wolves are much larger than wolverines, with an average length of somewhere around 41-63 inches, shoulder height of 32-34 inches, and weigh anywhere between 40-175 lbs depending of which of the 39 Gray wolf sub-species you take into consideration.
- Wolves are found in various parts of North America, Eurasia and North Africa. (More recently however, their geographical range is restricted to pockets as a result of human interference.)
- Being social predators, Gray wolves are known for their tendency to hunt in packs. They resort to the typical strategy of wearing down their prey by chasing it, and then hunting it down.
Even though these differences hint at the fact that the two species are not biologically related to each other, a symbiotic relationship can be seen between them in areas wherein their habitats overlap. As wolverines are known to feed on carrion left by wolves, a fall in the population of wolves can - in turn, affect the wolverine population in the region. Wolverines are known for their ferocity and strength on the basis of which they take on animals much larger than themselves. So what would happen if a wolverine-wolf face-off does happen? While such event hasn't been recorded in the past, stalwarts of the field are of the opinion that wolverine will edge out the wolf in this closely fought battle.